In the sub two-minute trailer for the TV series Flack – a show about a cutthroat PR agency specializing in cleaning up celebrity messes – there are portrayals of a private club, substance abuse and infidelity. The head of the agency even tells her subordinates, “I don’t care if you lie or send innocent people to jail, as long as you’re in control.” (That is a terrifying statement, if I’ve ever heard one!) While the fictional show is of course an exaggerated dramatization of the PR industry, it serves as an important opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions about the traditionally misunderstood world of PR.
I asked the team at K&P to vent their frustrations and share mistaken beliefs they’ve encountered about their profession, and here were the top three that surfaced.
We are not lawbreakers
Public relations practitioners work in various capacities for clients. Sometimes our role is as simple as monitoring for specific news coverage and other times our role is as involved as providing strategic counsel on the direction their business should take from a communications point of view. But no matter how closely we work with our clients, we do not (ever!) break laws in an effort to protect reputations.
Counselling and aiding clients through crises is a key part of PR, but ‘covering up’ scandals and circumventing the law is something else entirely. In fact, as PR professionals, it’s our job to keep our ears to the ground and stay ahead of any major issues in order to mitigate potential client crises as much as possible before they have a chance to happen. This being said, crises are still inevitable, and we’re always happy to help clients align with the most contemporary standards of ethics and accountability, but always – and only – legally. Breaking the law to salvage reputation is a bit of an oxymoron, after all.
We are not always worked to the bone
Life at a PR agency entails that you work with multiple clients by nature, and these clients all have different needs. Some clients may even be in different time zones or countries. This means that work at an agency is unpredictable and client requests may fall outside of conventional business hours. Does this subsequently mean that working at a PR agency puts the kibosh on your personal life? Absolutely not!
Sure, there are some very demanding PR agencies that can negatively impact one’s personal life, but you’ll find demanding workplaces across all industries. From working in the arts to working in healthcare, and everything in between, workplace culture is up to the individual workplace.
“I’ve worked for a couple tough agencies. Ones where we worked 60-hour weeks the majority of the year,” said our president, Janine Allen. “I was once told by a senior female agency leader that ‘women can’t have kids and work in agency.’ That is categorically false. I’m a mom of three, run an agency and I make it a non-negotiable point to be present at my sons’ school and sports events.”
Here at K&P, there is an unwavering degree of professionalism and every piece of work we produce is executed with the highest standards – all while maintaining our personal lives as we go. We’re pretty lucky that our agency recognizes the need for healthy and fulfilling lives outside of work, and in so doing, keenly addresses issues of overwork in a timely and empathetic fashion. It’s not always like this in PR – or any industry – but it’s important to dispel the myth that we have no choice but to perpetually be worked to the bone as PR professionals.
PR is not a singular career
Public relations is an umbrella term. It encompasses a wide range of disciplines that are applied to clients of all industries. The experience of a public relations professional is not monolithic as it’s such a diverse industry with all kinds of different areas of focus and career paths one can take.
One prime example of this is how some agencies and organizations focus on B2B client work while others specialize in B2C. Your work as a PR professional will look drastically different depending on which one you specialized in. For example, if you work primarily with B2B clients who provide technical products and services for other businesses, chances are that organizing large scale consumer events and product launches could be a once-a-year thing compared to potentially being a core part of a B2C PR professional’s day-to-day.
In the same vein, B2B PR is often left in the wings as B2C PR takes the spotlight in terms of what PR professionals do. The perceived glamour of planning flashy influencer events and working with celebrities (which, don’t get me wrong, is definitely a cool part of B2C PR) often detracts from other interesting and influential work inherent in the B2B space. Raising executive profile, advocating for effective and progressive leadership and even investor relations can be extremely rewarding, yet tend to receive less attention while falling under the same overarching umbrella of PR.
There is equal value in all streams of PR, one is no better than the other. What’s important is understanding that careers in PR are not carbon copies of each other. The work is as varied and expansive as its clients and industries – which makes it one of the most fascinating and ever-changing professions out there.
While PR’s portrayal in popular media is enticingly salacious, it doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, it often tells a very fictional story that doesn’t hold much truth at all (but certainly makes for great television!). Even though it’s not always as glamorous as it’s made out to be, working in PR is more interesting, unpredictable and challenging than one might think – and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
By: Nathaniel Glassman