The PR Circus!

730 days of swimming in PR waters! Phew! A thing I had not imagined I will be doing at any point in my life. So on this “happy” occasion of completing 2 years in the PR industry let me do some PR for PR and give some gyaan on why PR as a profession is not a bad option at all!

Through it all I aim to give a practical, no nonsense and unadulterated picture about the PR industry from an insider’s point of view. Keep your hand on your heart lest it jumps out of its cozy chamber at the end of it!

The PR ground rule: be ready to be thrown into the murky waters and get downright dirty. Meaning be ready to beg borrow or steal for a story. I will go about the crash course in three sections
1. Clarifying the common mis-conceptions surrounding the PR profession and industry
2. Giving a brief insight into the nature of work involved in PR
3. The skills you are supposed to be equipped with to dance to the music.. Quite literally!

NOTE: My “gyaan” is purely based on my own experiences in the profession and are subject to PR agencies only. Also though officially PR still does not have the tag of an “industry” I prefer to use the tag as it rightly gives the profession the deserved recognition.

The misconceptions:

Misconception No.1: that PR is an “easy” profession where you will have lots of free time to laze. I admit even I thought of PR in the same vein till I found myself in the midst of the action. PR allows you to do anything but laze! Yes there are lean days as in other professions but most days you are required to be on your toes- ideate, write, network, sell!

Mis’concept’ion No. 2: public relations as being a boring, monotonous, press release factory kinda thing! PR and just press releases and Press Conferences..ha ha ha ha! Gone are those good old days. Now is the time when PR talk essentially involves exclusives, special stories, breaking news, presence in industry stories, self-titled articles, columns, digital media.. PR agencies have moved out of the press release disseminator role and donned the role of crafting communication strategies and creating brands. Pick up a newspaper for example and at least 30% of the “news” on any given day will have been fed through the PR route.

‘Mis’conception No.3: I do not know what is it with girls and PR but it is a fact that girls outnumber guys in the PR profession. I have come across specimens- mainly female- in the industry who think that batting their eyelashes and dimpling up will help sell the story or get them up the ladder in the organisation. False! Only hardwork and smartwork clubbed with having the basics right will get you anywhere in PR where being able to sell a story/ client to the media or a concept to the client or your seniors depends on a matter of a few minutes they will spare for you. If you prefer to bat your eyelashes in those few minutes then are in the wrong profession!

Now coming to the nature of work involved in PR:

A typical day in a PR agency goes like this:-
Come in the morning scan (skim through in simple terms) all the publications- mainlines, financials, vernaculars- whichever is/are relevant to your client(s) for coverage on the client, competitors, industry etc. Compile the news on client, competitors etc in the prescribed format and email the “daily update” to the client with a long list of CCs by 10.30 a.m.(in most cases).
By this time you would have a string of mails-some stinker- from client, senior, boss etc. Answering them “tactfully” does take time. Then comes the touching base with your offices/ associates in other cities to follow-up on the story for your client or a press release in those particular cities.
Most days will also involve drafting pitch notes for stories you want to sell to the media, press releases, profiles/ backgrounders on clients etc. If you are lucky to have got by without any content drafting the PR plans-weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly…- will not spare you.
After you are done racking your brains for the plans there are the media movements and updating of your media lists you cannot ignore! (Why do journalists shift from 1 media to another so frequently I still do not comprehend?!) Then of course there is the “being updated” about the stories journalists in your client’s beat are working on to plug in clients inputs in industry stories.
Now comes the real action and the real comedy circus- Pitching/ Selling client’s story to the media. You don the role of a sales person and “sell” a story to the journo. It is up to you to identify a story peg which can sell to the media and then convince the media of its importance and ensure coverage. It can be done through various PR vehicles- press release, one-on-one interaction of journo with client, telephonic/ email clarifications etc etc. Ultimate goal is to complete the set target of X number of coverage or coverage in A, B, C, D publications or electronic media. You may get yelled at, ignored..take it with a pinch of salt!
Yes and no forgetting the internal meetings, client meetings and reviews, Concalls…
If there is a press conference planned then there is more fun to look out for! Finalizing announcement, venue, content, media rounds, inviting media, follow-ups, coordination during PC, post event targeting of release, consolidation of coverage! Whew..action packed and exciting!
If you are involved in Business Development then there are the BD calls to make to potential clients, meeting them, drafting PR proposals, presentation.. Quite a handful for a day!

Ok now coming to the skill sets necessary to survive in the PR profession and make it big:

1. Content skills: most essential
2. Ideating- thinking for clients and news sense- ability to identify the right news i.e the news that will be picked up by the media. Knowing the pulse of every media is the key
3. Power of selling and Convincing
4. Networking: media, clients, prospective clients et al
5. Presentation skills and being presentable- neat and professional
6. Following up a task to its completion
7. Ability to work under pressure and not let the stress get to you.

So… If you think you have the necessary skill sets in you and find the PRisms exciting..go ahead hunt out an agency that handles “your kinda” clients- IT, Telecom, Lifestyle, Hospitality, Healthcare, Education, Real estate, Celebrity whatever it is!
Good luck to move up the ladder from Account Executive to Senior Account Exec to Manager to Sr. Manager to General Manager to Director to VP to CEO! 😀

P.S: PR is no inferior a profession than journalism even though some snobbish journos might think otherwise. Just let them live in their dream land while you move ahead without giving a damn to it.. 😛