2 central problems in PR and how young pros can deal with them

Of late, the interwebs are abuzz with talk of graduation and job searching.

The young’uns are brimming with excitement, eager to kick their careers into high gear.

There’s also a cadre of older folks dispensing advice aplenty about how the juniors can endear themselves to prospective employers.

I am gonna leave advice dispensation to the smarties. Instead, since I’m pretty dope at bitching, I’ll outline two central problems in PR and strategies for coping.

1) The lack of control: Control is an illusion in life. However, you will likely have more control over many facets of life than you do in PR. Your ability to get coverage (old or new) is always subject to external circumstances and events that you have not even a modicum of influence over.

The triple murder the night before your launch; the Mayor caught in sex scandal when you are doing a press conference; the President getting shot on the day of your PR stunt…what could you have done about any of these things? Zilch. Uncertainty rules the roost in this game.

How can you deal with this problem: There are a few tips operationally that you should consider. However, my best advice is be zen about. Relish that you sometimes get overtaken by events and use it to your advantage. The uncertainty of coverage always fuels me to work harder, plan better and execute. Don’t make excuses if you get overtaken by events and receive no coverage, but realize you’ll live to fight another day.

2) People’s perception of PR: I am not referring to people who see this profession as the natural habitat for slimey douchebags. There are douches everywhere.

Instead, I’m referring to what people think our role is. It’s not about hitting send on a press release. Neither is it purely about media relations and the thickness of clip books.

Today, it’s about being at the strategic table and designing programs that support the realization of business goals.

How can you deal with this problem: First, learn about your firm or client’s business. Specifically, try to learn as much as you can about the biz goals and competitive landscape. It always impresses me when young people frame arguments or proposals this way. It HAS to be about END GOALS NOT COVERAGE STATS. Only then will we, as a profession, be seen as more than press monkeys.

On a more micro level, I believe producing content that is relevant to the achievement of business goals is another key to getting past the PR stands for press release viewpoint. If you’re young and coming out of school now, you’ve lived with tech for most of your cognizant life. Exploit this by showing your superiors that you understand PR is a centre of content creation. Get involved in projects that allow you to show that you want to learn about creating valuable pieces of content that serve business ends.

Good luck in your job search and getting started. It’s an exciting time to be plying this craft. Try your best but don’t worry so much about making mistakes. There’s no better way to learn and they WILL happen. How you react and handle the mistakes is the important part.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd Defren May 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

Great post. My only problem with it is being designated as one of the “older folks.” (Sigh.)

Jackson Wightman May 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

Ha! Age is a state of mind! :)

Danny May 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

I always think it is weird when I talk about the negative image of the PR industry… now I should say that I am not “in” the industry exactly so maybe that’s why I don’t see it.

Personally, I think marketers and specifically web marketers or e-marketers are the ones that have the bad name these days.

Because isn’t the idea that good PR shouldn’t even be visible as PR?

Traditional marketing on the other hand has to stick out to be seen so it’s the opposite. Web marketing, much of the same.

Now good marketers are trying to more natural in their presentation but still, that’s just an emerging trend that 99% of marketers aren’t following.

Great post though, just throwing some thoughts out there because the idea of bad image for industry has been something I heard discussed a few times recently.

Jackson Wightman May 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the comments.

PR’s bad rep comes from bad practices (spamming reporter, over the top language and, of course, spin) . The profession, like marketing, is going through a techtonic paradigm shift. It’s too bad some people can’t hurry the hell up and abandon the old ways.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Ashley White May 20, 2010 at 10:05 am

These two problems and ways to solve them are so true. I’m definitely not a professional in the PR field, but I can see how these come into play with the big dogs. I do have to say that I really liked the fact that you had solutions to the two problems. So many people just like to sit and go off on different things and let others come up with the solutions. Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that you made it a point to stress the importance of learning from your mistakes. In today’s society, I feel like this thought is said, but it is not always believed. People expect to do everything perfect the first time, and feel like their life is over when something goes wrong. In your first problem/tip, people should see that it is not always their fault when they do make mistakes. Things happen and we can’t do anything about it except pick up our bags and move forward.

Jackson Wightman May 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

Thanks Ashley! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

Mistakes are the best way to learn. At least they have been for me.

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