What in the AF is PR?

On my first interview with a PR agency (ever), the interviewer (my future boss) asked me what I thought PR was. I answered that PR is the art and science of getting people (publics) to learn who you are, care about what you’re doing, and be inspired to take a supporting action. Very simply, PR is about protecting a reputation and strategically handling information (try putting that on a business card…).

I recently wrote an article published on MeghanMaydel.com about setting PR goals in 2017and included the same explanation about PR that I used more than 10 years ago. The concept of PR is the same, but how we do it has changed tremendously, and the industry remains as fluid as always.

But that still doesn’t offer much clarity for my husband when he has to explain to a friend what his wife does for a living. PR is still one of the most misunderstood professions and misapplied professional services. Because of the mystery surrounding what PR Pros do, business owners are confused about what PR can do for business (a lot).

There is a lot more to PR than planning events and going to glamorous events. Day to day, PR can include writing, emailing, interviewing, calling, strategizing, brainstorming, publishing and creating. I have at least 20 different browser windows open at one time, if not more, and multitasking (and triaging) is the name of the game.

It’s really tough to cram everything you do and specialize in as a PR Pro into one LinkedIn profile. Trust me. I tried.

I still get the confused-albeit-intrigued looks when I tell people I’m a PR specialist. If you count yourself among the group still asking yourself, “what in the AF does she do all day?” then this next part is for you.

Here are 10 things included in my work as a PR Pro that don’t all fit on my Linkedin profile...

  1. Nonprofit + Community Relations :: PR work for nonprofit and for-profit companies alike can often involve a lot of community relations activities which raise awareness and visibility among community members for support or fundraising. For past clients, this has meant hosting neighborhood meet-up events, attending town halls and city council meetings, collaborating with local schools, schmoozing with city councilors and launching city-wide awareness campaigns (like that time we campaigned to Baltimoreans they should stop throwing cigarette butts in the water).
  2. Committee Work :: Whether it’s the Community Relations Committee or the Workplace Generation Committee or the New Business Committee, there’s nearly always a committee at work somewhere working hard to move the needle forward on specific business initiatives identified by the Powers That Be (PTB = leadership). P.s. The aforementioned committees were all actual committees I served on at one point in time or another, and a PR Pro is always a valued committee member.
  3. Digital Marketing :: Strategizing how to use online multimedia, websites and social channels to deliver an impactful and memorable consumer experience for brands is sort of my thing. This is a component of PR that has the ability to integrate several other parts of a campaign including the ad creative and marketing materials, and make them really come to life. I’m also busy a lot of the time building authentic online communities for brands that help them connect with followers and fans on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Every online recommendation I’ve given a client has been purposeful and strategic. It also means I’m on my phone a lot.
  4. Media Relations :: PR is nothing without relationships and connections to journalists which can take years to forge and maintain. A great media relations specialist (a PR specialist) doesn’t only secure great media opportunities, they can guide spokespeople through the experience with talking points, interview prep, message delivery and image building. Great PR Pros don’t just land great press, they do everything in their literal power to make sure it positively supports a brand or cause. They make sure it meets goals and impacts the bottom line by placing key messages with key audiences.
  5. Crisis Communications :: Sometimes CEOs say the wrong thing. Facebook Live broadcasts go awry. Tweets are published prematurely or accounts are hacked. Accidents happen. Sh*t hits the fan. Every day, businesses face issues that risk a reputation they’ve spent decades building and nurturing. A smart and well-trained PR professional can both protect and defend a company’s reputation while working to gain back any lost public trust.
  6. Events :: Okay, yeah. Sometimes, PR is about event planning! From media tours and menu tasting dinners to Instagram meetups and galas, we’re always behind the scenes playing a part. We’re also front and center schmoozing, making introductions and meeting new people. Don’t think for a second we’re not working. Every event I’ve ever worked on has been a blood/sweat/tears combo of work, tired feet and staying up way past my bedtime (but it’s nearly always worth it).
  7. Content Dev + Writing :: Developing content is one of the biggest jobs I own as a PR Pro. Writing blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, internal communications, intranet digests, letters and so much more. The process of delivering good content to key audiences includes extensive research, organization and scheduling as I work to create engaging, easy to find, actionable and on-brand copy and images that really impact blog and website stats. There are a lot of moving parts to this engine.
  8. Visuals :: Whether it means styling a photoshoot for Instagram or creating a new GIF using the Adobe Creative Suite, every piece of content needs a visual produced. Sometimes that’s on us PR Pros, too.
  9. Reporting! :: This one is often overlooked, but a good PR Pro will want to see bottom-line results, just like any smart business owner will. Studying the effectiveness of our PR efforts and communications tactics is important to knowing what we should do again in the future and what we need to ditch.
  10. Customer Service :: You probably wouldn’t think of this one as a PR Pro job, but the way I do it, it’s personal. I only take on clients I am personally passionate about and invested in for the reason that I go to bat for them daily. I’ve filled water glasses at a table for a restaurant client before. I’ve responded to Facebook comments well past midnight on behalf of a client before. My kids and I have even modeled for clients before when they couldn’t find anyone else (so not my thing, btw). Customer service is always part of the package.

This is only one blog post. I still couldn’t fit in everything I work on in one place. If you’re still wondering what in the AF PR really is, or what I do, let’s have coffee.

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