I am going to be honest. When I was in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I started off as an international relations major, minoring in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic. I thought I wanted to work for the UN. Over time, my dreams and ambitions drastically changed. The second semester of my sophomore year, I transferred to a school in NYC, where I decided to pursue public relations and fashion (yes, very different from trying to find peace in the Middle East).
I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into once I chose a communications career. When I decided to change my major, I just knew that studying PR was general enough that I could work in a variety of industries. Looking back, I now know that in college my perception of PR was inaccurate. When you are sitting in a classroom with textbooks learning theories, it doesn’t always match up to what PR looks like in the real world.
Now that I am older and wiser, I can share a few things that I wish someone had told me before I became a publicist:
1) PR is hard work.
I never decided to be a publicist because I thought it would be easy, but I didn’t realize how challenging clients could be. It can be a never-ending job, full of on-going demands and extremely high expectations. When working in PR, you constantly have to manage many different personalities. If you work at an agency, you have to work with a variety of clients at the same time; it can be hard to keep track of them all.
2) It is not all about partying.
I am not going to lie: when I thought of PR, I also thought of fabulous parties. That is not necessarily true. In the past three years, since I graduated, I have not planned any parties, and I rarely attend any great events. I didn’t realize that event planning is a whole different industry. That being said, some PR firms also do events for their clients. However, even when you are in charge of planning parties, it isn’t as glamorous as it might seem on “The Hills” or “The City.”
3) Get used to rejection.
PR is not an industry for the weak. It takes persistence to get just one good placement. Sometimes you send out a great pitch to 100 contacts, and you are happy if even one responds. At the same time, you might have a pitch that you think is great, and every reporter or editor that you talk to says “no.” Explaining this dilemma to your client can be difficult because they are obviously aren’t going to be happy. The upside is, when you get your client a major placement, it feels so good! You have to develop thick skin, and learn how to not react when things aren’t going your way.
4) Relationships are important.
For an industry that is so social media crazy, real life relationships are still the most important thing of all. Tweeting someone doesn’t mean that you know them. If you learn from the beginning that talking to someone face-to-face gets you further than an email or phone call, you will be a great publicist! It never hurts to go the extra effort and take someone out to coffee or send a hand written thank you note. Since most people rely on email, you will definitely stand out with these personal touches.
If I would have known these things before I started my career, I wouldn’t have been in such shock the whole first year of doing PR. As with any job, there are negatives and positives. The thing I love most about doing PR: there is never a dull moment! I am always surprised by what happens next, which isn’t the case for most jobs.