As a new edition to the 451 Marketing consumer public relations team, I find myself explaining my job a lot these days. I spent two years in public relations prior to joining 451, and when my “it’s similar work with new clients” explanation fails, it becomes painfully apparent that friends and family have been clueless for some time now.
As a PR professional, I have been compared to anything from a media buyer to a party planner. When it first came out, I had several people send me the wildly popular meme, “What People Think I Do,” defining public relations with a series of snapshots and one-liners describing how others view the profession. While I may agree with aspects of the depictions in this meme, I think it’s missing the big picture.
PRSA defines Public Relations as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. But perhaps the best way to understand public relations is to understand what it’s not.
I do go to client events after hours. While I’m there, I also hustle to escort media, coordinate interviews, and orchestrate key photographs for my client. I do not spend money like it’s going out of style. As compared to an advertising budget, my PR budget is pretty slim. And at no point do I bang my head against a wall.
If I had created this meme, I would have used a “Where’s Waldo” photo to describe “What I Actually Do.” On the most basic level, I spend my days trying to help media members see and understand the importance of my client. It’s like giving a map to the needle in the haystack. In honor of his 25th anniversary, let’s say I provide the Where’s Waldo hints. It’s often easier to find Waldo in a crowded department store than it is to see an outstanding product or service in an increasingly crowded market. (Hint: He’s near the shoes) So my job is to help media see through the clutter, or comb through the department store crowd, and find Waldo, so they can also tell their readers and viewers about him, too.
What picture would you use to define what PR professionals actually do?