“You Work in PR? So … What Do You Do Exactly?”

“So you, like, plan parties all the time, right?”

“Do you just hang out with celebrities?”

“Do you get paid to be on Facebook all day?”

Working in the PR industry, we get these questions a lot. So here’s what we actually do:

In PR, we help build and manage relationships between your public and your brand

The secret to what we do lies in the name itself: public relations. Though there are several different strategies and tactics that fall within PR, at the end of the day, everything we do ties back to building and managing relationships with the public – whether it’s the media, customers or other third parties. It’s our job to help tell our brand’s story and build the foundation of what keeps a business going: its customers.

The Media. Media relations can be a big part of a PR pro’s day (sometimes, all of it). In PR, our role is to build and leverage relationships with journalists, in the hopes that they’ll help tell our client’s story as well. It takes time to build these relationships as the most successful ones are built around value and trust. PR pros aren’t sitting on the phone spamming reporters all day (at least not at SHIFT). We aim to be a resource for them. We know their beat, we know their deadlines and we’re ready to provide them with relevant information they need to get their story in on time.

Here’s an example you can share with your curious family and friends: You’re working with a new fitness gadget client. You worked with a producer at the Today Show to develop a segment around how to keep that beach body even when it’s not summer. The segment airs a few days later featuring your client’s CEO discussing a number of different ways to stay in shape. That is an example of media relations in PR.

The Customers. One of the basic tenets of public relations is to drive awareness around our brand or our clients to bring in more customers while keeping current loyal audiences engaged and informed. Oftentimes as PR professionals, we are interacting directly or indirectly with these customers. Many PR teams manage the social media accounts for clients, publishing industry news, running contest giveaways and communicating with audiences on behalf of the client.

Another facet of PR is reputation management. If audiences are unhappy, we help figure out why and work to change that negative perception by addressing their needs. If customers are happy, we’ll amplify those emotions and help turn your customers into your best advocates.

If your family asks what you mean: A customer took to social media to complain about a wrong fast food order they received that day. As part of the social media team for your client – who happens to be the fast food chain – you take the time to apologize to the customer and, with client approval, offer a solution to the customer so they walk away from their experience positively. Or, in another example, the PR team may be in charge of generating local buzz about a new e-commerce client, so they create and run a pop-up store on a popular street to give customers the opportunity to see and interact with otherwise online-only products in real life.

To do any of this, we have to be well-versed in each client’s audiences. We have to understand how they think, what they’re seeking from the client and how to best respond as a result.

The concept of PR isn’t hard to understand once there are some examples shared. And people, whether they know it or not, do it in a way every day. Everyone manages relationships of some kind. So the next time your parents ask what you do, don’t brush them off! Start with “I build relationships” and go from there. That glossed over look in their eyes will start to fade; we promise.

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