10 harsh truths about working in PR

Want to be a communicator for a living? Here are a few things you should know about the rewarding (yet challenging) public relations industry.


I wasn’t sure where my love for writing and creativity would take me as a high school student, but I quickly discovered public relations as a college scholar.

I instantly felt a connection and had what you could call an “aha” moment as I learned everything the field had to offer. I had a desire to help people, and this seemed like a great way for me to do that.

As I incorporated PR into my career and followed my passion, I was prepared for the negative side in this vocation. Despite being exposed to undesirable parts of it, I push forward.

Why? I am certain this is what I am meant to do with my life; however, it isn’t for everyone.

Here are 10 things you need to know if you are considering a career in public relations:

1. It’s more than just event planning, writing and developing campaigns.

PR is also measuring, problem solving and more. One of my favorite things about PR is that it does allow you to tap into your creative side, but it isn’t all about that artistic quality.

Some of your days will be completely devoted to research, numbers and data entry, depending on the project.

2. Stress is to be expected. Whether you are in an agency or in a PR and marketing department, you can’t control what your clients or employers say or do—even though it often falls on the burden of the PR professional.

It’s our job to fix their mistakes for the sake of the company’s reputation, and the best pros use honesty and integrity to fix every problem.

Other stress factors include, but are not limited to, seeing positive results from efforts, following up with leads and pitches, staying organized and on top of your tasks and taking on new assignments as one is still in development.

3. Time is of the essence. You can’t slack off in PR.

You must stay up to date with trends and what’s in the field’s future while also maintaining your tasks and quality content both online and offline.

4. Sometimes, you need to prove your worth. Unfortunately, PR and marketing departments are some of the first to go when a company makes cuts, and unless you are in a PR agency that already understands the importance of this skill, you need to be able to prove yourself to your employer.

Businesses know they need sales for their ROI, but they often don’t realize they need PR to help drive income through a strong reputation as well. It will also be important for you to have self-confidence; work on it if you don’t possess it.

5. You may have to put in hours outside of the office. Some of my most successful campaigns involved unpaid time outside of the office.

This also holds true if you notice negative feedback on your company’s Facebook page. There is no such thing as “waiting until Monday” to give a response; at least, not if you want to uphold a positive outlook on your organization.

It is one of the downfalls of businesses becoming involved with social media, but it’s still important.

6. PR is quite the competitive career. Graduating from college, completing an internship and being involved in a few clubs during undergrad are no longer sufficient enough to nab a job in PR (and haven’t been for a long time).

Your internships sometimes turn into fantastic job opportunities, but don’t bank on it. For instance, the company I completed my internship with shut down its marketing and PR department due to budget cuts and excessive company changes.

It is never too early to begin networking, finding a mentor and preparing for your future calling in PR.

7. There are “professionals” who give PR a bad name. I’ve always been bound and determined to never be one of those individuals who lie to save face or represent something negative.

I’ve been asked to lie in a previous position and my refusal to do so almost resulted in my termination.

Make sure you always stand your ground and what you believe in, especially if you hope to have a subsequent position with a certain company that does represent authenticity and ethical standards.

8. Part of your job is to connect people to other people. Assisting your client in finding a web developer who matches his needs or fixing him up with a graphic designer to develop the logo for his new startup are just a couple examples of other pieces to the PR puzzle of which you should be aware.

9. You must be a self-starter. If you see an opportunity that will be great for the company, go for it.

Reach out to your boss about your goals with moving forward with an idea or lead and, if a budget change is involved or initial approval is denied, take the time to write up a proposal or presentation as to why you feel it would be worth moving forward with.

You can’t be a pencil pusher; you have to be an opportunist.

10. You must be detail-oriented. If you are someone who tends to forget the small elements, you will want to work on improving this trait—or reconsider this profession.

Even on my most stressful days, I still do not doubt that I am in the right occupation. I know I chose correctly despite having periodic thoughts of uncertainty and frustration, which is completely normal in the workforce.

Ultimately, there is so much PR has offered me, and my passion for it drives me onward—as it does for many communicators. Now, as PR evolves to something even bigger and becomes increasingly necessary with marketing, new public relations professionals have seemingly endless options to enter the industry.

Are you considering following this path, or have you been questioning if PR is the right fit?

Jenn Clark is the founder of JC PR and Design. A version of this story originally appeared on the firm’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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