By: Meghan Somers, Account Director at The Agency, @TheAgencyMeghan
Pop culture is the root of a lot of misconceptions about the PR industry. We hear a lot of the following: “I want to plan parties like Samantha from Sex and the City.” Or “I want to gladiate my way through problems on a national scale like Olivia Pope & Associates.” Also, we can’t forget “I want to talk and ‘spin’ a situation so that I can push through controversial ideas – or public figures” (see Thank You for Smoking, Hancock, etc.).
There are actual seeds of truth in the above pop culture examples, but in all honesty PR work has more to it than parties, spin, and spin control. As the business world has evolved, so has the role of public relations and the PR practitioner. Though there is still a need for PRs who are media relations specialists, as it is a large part of the job, PR has evolved to tie in marketing and communications as well.
Here are some areas we work on in PR that you may not have realized were under the PR work umbrella:
Social media has become a large part of PR because it is how a lot of brands are communicating and engaging with ‘their publics.’ It is also a great tool for building brand awareness.
At The Agency, we work with our clients to create and implement social media strategies based around thought leadership. “Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise.” Thought leadership campaigns work to help establish our clients (and their companies) as thought leaders in their space. This means that rather than sharing random things and general observations on clients’ social media, everything we share is connected back to the areas they would like to establish themselves in.
In addition, social media is a great tool to help extend the reach of other PR initiatives. For example, with media relations, any articles that are ‘landed’ should be shared out on social media as soon as possible, as well as multiple times over the next few months. Another great example of work that PRs do, which social media can amplify, is content. Any branded content that is created must be shared out on social (see next section for more details).
Content Creation (and Content Marketing)
Just like how social media has become one of the main methods brands use to interact with their audiences, content has also become an important way for brands to share their expertise directly with the public.
As PRs, we create massive amounts of content, from blog posts, to infographics, to one-pagers about the company, to conference handouts, to videos, to pieces of ‘owned’ content that are then pitched to third-party outlets for publication, etc.
A key thing to remember about content marketing, to help make it effective, is that it has to come from a strategic place. Anything you create must relate back to your brand’s strategy, or why else are you doing it? Going ‘viral’ should be a byproduct, not a goal. This is because it’s impossible to know what will actually go viral, but you can understand what will resonate with your target audiences. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative and off-the-wall with your content, it just means you have to tie your crazy ideas back to the brand.
Advertising (yes, advertising)
Though technically part of the marketing funnel, PR is starting to get more involved in the advertising world. A large part of the advertising that we do is on social media: for example, sponsoring LinkedIn or Instagram posts, to help extend the reach of other PR efforts.
PRs are often tasked with search engine optimization as well. This can be by creating ads directly for SEO, or by making sure that we use key phrases in the content we create.
My specialty! I had to add this one in because I’m not sure people understand just how much project managing (or as we call it at The Agency – Cat Herding) is involved in PR. I mentioned earlier that PR and its related fields are becoming less siloed. As a result, we are now often involved in multiple campaigns at once, with multiple stakeholders and audiences.
As a PR, it is your job to not only stay on top of your deadlines, but everyone else’s as well, because often the next part of your project cannot be started until Jack from marketing has completed creative on that ad set (as an example).
Cat herding is not limited to internal people – often you will be making sure your clients stay on top of the things they are tasked with as well. It is important to remember that PR is not a one-way street with clients, as you will often need information, input, approvals, and information from them. Information is listed twice because it is imperative that you get up-to-date details about what’s going on with your client or you could accidentally send out some incorrect info to the media or other audiences.
While we don’t often work on brand materials like logos or letterheads, as PRs we often help organizations to define their brands. We help them distill down what they do until they have a series of key messages that are easily consumable by their target audiences. Sometimes we help clients define their target audiences. We also help to establish brands once they are defined, through tactics like media relations, content creation, and social media.
PRs often copywrite as we are good communicators. Note, the type of copywriting we do is different than in advertising, as we are shooting less for pithy and memorable and more for on brand and related to key messaging.
One major copywriting task we are often asked to do is website copy drafting. This means either ‘tuning up’ a website’s current copy, or drafting the copy for an entire website from scratch.
Random other things we do a lot
To name a few: Website creation. SEO. Graphic design – or coordination of graphic designing. Event organizing. Advising on marketing campaigns. Conference preparation. Media relations. List creating (media lists, influencer lists, ad options lists, etc.). Math. Reporting. Dealing with vendors.
Do you have any questions about what it’s actually like to work in PR? Or any tasks to add to the list? Reach out to us today in the comments below or on twitter at @PRTheAgency to share them!