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Public Relations 101: 3 Things to Know as a New PR Pro

As a new PR professional, it can be daunting to learn the ins and outs of a growing industry let alone how to earn top tier coverage. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, or communications there are stark differences between what you learn in school and the real-life experiences you’re exposed to in a business environment. 

For many PR pros, this realization occurs once they step foot in the door and shift their mindset from lectures and term papers to client demands and deadlines. As someone who sought out advice from many professionals before starting my own career, I know firsthand what I imagined my role would be like compared to what it actually is.

The following 10 public relations professionals weighed in on what they wish they knew before getting started in their PR careers. Yes, for many it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows and there are tons of pros to outweigh the cons, but if you’re considering a career in PR you might want to listen to what these professionals had to say.

Andrew Pemberton-Fowler, Chairman & CEO of Pemberton Fowler LLC

  1. Clients are not your friend
  2. You better love email.
  3. Never stop pitching & brainstorming.
  4. EXTRA: I can’t force a journalist to write about you. Sorry.

Whitney Wells, Account Director at BAM Communications

  1. This is the only career where your emails will be edited routinely
  2. You’ll become the best dinner guest there is because you’ll be very well-read on a variety of topics 
  3. Client relationships are 75% of the battle

Kara Silverman, Founder & Partner of Various and Co.

  1. Nothing is off the record.
  2. It’s not a 24/7 job, though it feels it can be. Turn off. Do other things.
  3. Get comfortable with rejection. You hear “no” way more than “yes.”

Geena Russo, Communications Manager at CAP UCLA

  1. It comes with a good deal of stress.
  2. You’ll never stop explaining what you do and even more so to clients who ask for the impossible.
  3. PItching gets tiresome.

Liz Goar, President of NPC Creative Services

  1. No one (except others in the business) really understands what you do.
  2. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, no matter how nicely it’s worded, rejection still hurts.
  3. Unless you work in an office, because so much is electronic, days can go by without uttering a single word.

Eric Ebert, Founder & Public Relations Manager of Eric M. Ebert Communications

  1. No replies are more normal than you think. I was always used to sending emails and getting a reply. That isn’t normal in PR.
  2. Read everything in your industry, because the journalists do.
  3. Embargoes need to be agreed to in advance.
  4. EXTRA: Treat journalists (and everyone else) like human beings and not a checkmark on a list.

Brenda Manea, Account Manager at BAM Communications

  1. If you aren’t getting responses, don’t dwell – figure out why and pivot. 
  2. Take time to read what a journalist has written before you pitch them (every. single. time!)
  3. Out with the industry jargon you don’t understand, in with layman’s terms lingo.

Cathy White, Founder of CEW Communications

  1. Most clients won’t understand what you do, it’s a continual learning curve 
  2. You will be a ‘scape goat’ for the mistakes of other people, don’t be afraid to push back (gently) where you can 
  3. You have to celebrate your wins more than anyone!

Rachel Hammond, Founder of The Hammond Agency

  1. There‘s always more than one story.
  2. Your client’s idea of a ‘great’ story won’t always (ever 😂) be the same as yours.
  3. You’ll have way more fun & tell way more good stories than you did when you were a journo.

Shawn Paul Wood, Senior Marketing Communications Specialist at Ryan

  1. Thick skin should have been a school supply for this job. It’s business. 
  2. If you don’t understand what happens in a newsroom, that is your priority one. 
  3. This business is all about relationships. Period. #PR101 
  4. EXTRA: P.S. Learn to write.

For many public relations professionals, these are familiar pain points that nearly all of them experience at one point or another. The goal of this post isn’t to frighten you either, it’s to draw attention to the real-life experiences, and feelings, we go through.

In short, prepare yourself, your mind, and your ego for the unavoidable and recognize there are many others out there who might feel the same way you do from time to time.

If you want to get a head start in your career, here’s an eBook we put together titled PR 101: The Ultimate Guide to Pitching Follow the steps in this eBook to learn how to start crafting pitches journalists are looking for.