6 Signs You Work in PR
A few years ago, my employer hosted a career day for high school students interested in working in PR.
“If you like talking on the phone, this is the right industry for you,” the presenter joked.
I disagree. It’s being comfortable getting hung up on that makes someone well-suited to work in PR.
In fact, the ability to handle a stern brush off is one sign that you have experience in the industry. Here are some other giveaways that you’re a PR professional:
1. You have two speeds: fast and really fast.
Be honest: how many times have you been on the phone with an executive who stops mid-sentence to ask, “Are you getting all this?” before continuing to dictate four pages of edits over the background noise of what sounds like a circus? Too many to count, I imagine.
If you work in PR, you know that you need to keep up. And if you want to be the best, you need to stay a step ahead. So you work fast, whether you’re taking edits, writing talking points or fetching coffee. And you only get faster.
2. You can spot a lunatic.
When I interviewed for my first media relations job, my would-be manager asked a very telling question: “How do you handle difficult personalities?”
Having little experience with such things, I shrugged. “Pretty well.”
For the next six months, he did his very best to prove otherwise. I won’t share all the ugly details, but I’ll tell you that the person who asks that question on an interview is the same person who argues that there is a correct way to use a glue stick. Add it to the list of warning bells.
Sadly, the PR industry has its share of nut jobs and most of us learned that the hard way. The only upshot is that a few years of experience will teach you how to identify one early. Trust your instincts.
3. You are a news aggregator.
A few years ago, I was on vacation when the story broke about “Balloon Boy,” the child who supposedly got swept away in a hot air balloon. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned it weeks later that I realized I missed it entirely.
“You don’t know about Balloon Boy!?” she asked. “I have to explain the news to you?”
She was a little haughtier than someone who was an expert on a ballooning scandal ought to be, but I let her have the win. I, too, know the thrill of recapping a big story.
Working in PR requires you to be well-versed on the news – from bounce house accidents to jobs reports and back again. And because you also know how to summarize a story in 30 seconds, you’re often the first stop for an overview.
4. You can sprint in four-inch heels.
I can’t beat a Rascal motor scooter in a foot race. I know this from experience because my former client had knee trouble and took to riding one at top speed at events as I sprinted behind him in high heels, usually while holding his boxed lunch and briefing book.
I couldn’t keep up, but I always made a respectable finish. And I’m sure most other PR professionals would too.
Did I mention being fast? Well it helps to look good too. Shoes matter, as you know.
5. You can throw a party.
I’m guilty of telling a group of wedding caterers that they should rearrange a buffet station so that it could accommodate lines on both sides of the table.
“It’s inefficient to have it pushed against the wall,” I explained.
Importantly, it was not my wedding and the caterers made the smart decision not to listen to me – though I stand by my recommendation.
Working in PR usually goes hand in hand with planning and staffing events. Sometime in the first year, you learn all the tricks about menus, room setup and guest entertainment. After that, the key is trying to forget about it when you’re on the attending side.
6. You’re working on it.
So maybe you don’t like walking up to strangers at conferences and pitching a story to someone who decided years ago that he’ll never work with a publicist. Or perhaps you still don’t understand how to merge four sets of contradictory edits into a 500-word byline.
The good news is that you don’t really need to have it all mastered – not right away, at least. PR is an industry where a good attitude and the willingness to try will get you everywhere. It’s all a work in progress – and improving is often easier than you think.
The best sign that you work in PR – and have a long career ahead – is that you’re open to working on it all.
What do you think are some signs that you work in PR?
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