PR: Fulfilling Lives and Defying Stereotypes

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Posted: October 20, 2014, 2:30 p.m.
by Kelsey Weiss.

One of the best aspects of being in the crop of up-and-coming public relations practitioners is the recognition that a future career in our field is bright — and growing. Recent communication graduates have a large variety of career paths from which to choose. Coupled with a prevalence of competitive positions, more opportunities are open to emerging PR professionals than ever before in today’s working world — due in part to the necessity for communication specialists in nearly every organization comprising the corporate landscape.

Unfortunately, within this land of opportunity lie a number of stigmas and stereotypes — particularly about public relations and the way things are run behind the scenes. The ones most commonly uttered among undergraduates include, but are not limited to, the following:

“You must want a job like Samantha Jones has on ‘Sex and the City’!”
“What do you mean you’ll have to operate under deadlines?”
“If you are a PR major, you are obviously a people-person.”

 

While seemingly harmless, the idea that the work of a team of public relations professionals is nothing more than planning events, designing fliers and creating social media posts begins to diminish the credibility of the field and the bright minds that populate it, joke by joke.

“I think a lot of people still have a misconception that in PR what we do is look at social media and chat with friends all day. While we do monitor social media and create content, there is so much more to PR. There are days when you eat lunch at your desk because you are so busy or you stay late to make deadlines,” Haley Flanagan said, account coordinator at Waggener Edstrom Communications.

With this in mind, there are more concerning stereotypes that should be tabled and removed from the dialogue — and for good reason.

Public relations professionals are nothing more than failed journalists.
It is not a surprise that the primary role of a public relations professional is not, in fact, to deliver the news. However, this is not to say that traditional news reporting does not fall into the realm of public relations. In a “Journal of Public Relations Research” article, P.A. Curtin reported that 78 percent of journalists use news releases when generating story ideas a majority of the time. That’s right — more than three-quarters of all news in today’s media landscape is inspired by the work of a PR professional. This statistic eradicates the assumption that publicists do not do the work worthy of a journalist.

The attitude, however, is not going to go away, regardless of the numbers that prove otherwise. The misconceptions between the news media and those in the public relations realm will continue to evolve as both professions meet different economies and demands. As Jim Macnamara notes in his article entitled “Journalism and Public Relations: Unpacking Myths and Stereotypes,” “[e]ven though journalists extensively use information from public relations sources as shown in quantitative content analyses, and many go on to seek careers in public relations, they continue to hold negative attitudes towards PR.”

Public relations professionals serve a disposable function.
Moving onto a different kind of stereotype, much of what circulates in undergraduate classrooms is the idea that the public relations market will one day expire. While this assumption is based on only some aspects of the profession, it should be known that much of public relations is dedicated to a laundry list of objectives that are, more often than not, irreplaceable to an organization. These broad objectives include working to “achieve business goals; explain strategies, programs and policies; help change perceptions, opinions and behaviors; influence attitudes; and attract attention to public issues,” according to a study by Adina Palea from the Polytechnic University of Timișoara. It’s difficult to say that a position that often fulfills this list and more is going to one day be eliminated.

Macnamara puts it best in his article when he states that “[it] is inarguable . . . that the ranks of well-paid public relations practitioners continue to swell which rational analysis can only conclude is evidence of market demand and effectiveness, as organizations are unlikely to spend . . . money on a function that is not seen as necessary and beneficial.”

The high-stress environment isn’t worth the payoff.
Among the most predominant chatter surrounding the public relations profession includes the idea that since it is one of the most stressful jobs today, it’s not a good career choice. However, a quick survey of those who consciously choose to both study and practice public relations proves differently.

“I found a job that has a mission, so it makes all the stress worth it. I decided from the beginning that I was not going to do PR for money, but find something that I like to do and hope it pays well,” Alex Ritchey said, account coordinator at iDisciple.

Whether pursuing the career for personal purpose or creative outlet, the overarching theme seems the same: public relations is here to stay, regardless of the words of naysayers.

“One of my favorite aspects of what I do is the opportunity I have to work with so many different people with different personalities. They make everything worth it. We are often encouraged to grab coffee with people from other departments [and] teams so that we can continue to improve and grow together,” Flanagan said.

“The weeks may fly by because so much is going on, but I am always excited to go to work on Monday mornings — that’s what ultimately makes this field so fulfilling.”

Bibliography:

Curtin, P.A. (1999). Reevaluating public relations information subsidies: Market-driven journalism and agenda-building theory and practice. Journal of Public Relations Research, 11 (1), 53-90.

Macnamara, Jim. “Journalism And Public Relations: Unpacking Myths And Stereotypes.” Australian Journalism Review 34.1 (2012): 33. Informit Literature & Culture Collection. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.

Palea, Adina. “The Public Relations Professional. Elements Of Identity.” PCTS Proceedings (Professional Communication & Translation Studies) 7.1/2 (2014): 17-22. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.

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