Everyone has an idea of what public relations is all about, whether from TV and movies or just assumptions based on seeing a PR guy on a televised press conference “spin” a story.
Once you’ve worked in the field, though, it becomes clear that most depictions are inaccurate.
Here are some common fallacies:
1. PR and advertising are identical.
Though they’re in the same ballpark, advertising and public relations are in decidedly different sections. Look at it this way: Advertising is a one-way street, with the advertiser on one end and the willing customer on the other. On the other hand, public relations is a two-way street, with many trips between both ends.
2. PR pros distort the truth.
People have the sense that our beloved profession is all about trickery and deception. Of course, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The public relations field is all built around telling the truth and building trust. If we lose the public’s precious trust, we lose all footing. PR pros who distort the truth get found out and are quickly brought to light.
3. We’re all a bunch of drinkers.
This may be anecdotally true, but according to TV and movies it’s set in stone and industrywide. Just as being a writer means you’re a drinker or drug user, the common perception is those who work in the field are downing a Cosmo while they spin their various campaigns from the bar. Everyone likes to unwind after work, but not all of us imbibe.
4. It’s all luck.
Because they don’t understand what we do, those outside the industry pretend it’s all luck of the draw. The reality is that we take pains to strategize so that everything that happens is not luck of the draw. If you know what you’re doing, you can guarantee results within a close percentage because of the plans you’ve made.
Fiction: You go into the office for a little while and work a bit. Grab a drink. Laugh. Time for a smoke break. Have a fun meeting. Work a little more. Laugh and have another meeting, but drink. Go home. Smile.
Reality: You go in early because the deadlines for three of your clients are all due and someone dropped the ball. Plan for three hours for another client because they’re really flaky—just to have them change their minds at the last minute. Go home and prepare for yet another long work weekend. Sure, grab a smoke—outside while you work on your laptop.
6. PR pros prefer old-school methods.
Not sure how this one got started, but people are under the impression that PR pros are pushing against social media and prefer older tactics. It is a fact that social media and PR are more cousins than siblings, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a viable and efficient way to gain ground on your PR campaign. Any sensible PR pro knows this.
7. You only have to be a people person.
Though it obviously helps, being a “people person” isn’t the whole job. You have to be a strategic thinker, a great writer, and a hard worker, as well. If you’re only really able to talk to people and nothing else, you’ll never launch a successful campaign.
8. It’s a 9-to-5 job.
Most people get to go home at the end of the day. As a PR pro, even when you get to go home, you’ve never left the office. When you read a newspaper or see a news report—or even when you see a client’s competing product placed on a television show—your mind is right there back at work dreaming up a new strategy.
9. People will see you.
If you want to be seen on TV, go audition for a commercial. If you like the satisfaction of knowing that your client’s appearance on “Today” was your idea and it will net your client lots of money and continue the working relationship you have with them, then you’re fit to be in PR. It’s not about being seen; it’s about getting others seen.
10. It’s super glamorous.
Again, blame TV and movies. People see the lifestyle of a PR pro as portrayed in fiction and assume it’s reality. In the real world, it’s a lot of hard work and can’t be done while shopping for shoes and hanging out of a limo. To be really successful in the field, you have to be dedicated and love what you do, despite all the long hours and missteps along the way.
What misconception about PR drives you crazy?
Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics, a must-read for the up-and-coming PR professional. Follow eReleases on Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.