Public relations (or PR for short) is a popular field for communications majors and digitally-oriented personalities. The days of PR professionals are busy ones — full of brand management, market research, and tackling whatever happens to come your way. To really thrive in the PR field, you need to be on top of your game at all times.
Today, we have Olivia Adams, an in-house PR professional and Social Media Manager, here to chat about what life in PR is really like, common misconceptions, and experiences you should seek our during your college years if PR interests you.
Below, our interview with Olivia gives insight into what it is really like to work in PR.
GenTwenty: When someone says, “I work in PR,” what do they mean by that? What do PR agencies do for their clients?
Olivia Adams: Public relations agencies help brands build relationships with their target audience. While many people often think PR is all about managing an organization’s reputation, its main focus is creating and maintaining engaging relationships.
G20: What’s a day in the life of a PR professional?
OA: If you ask any PR professional, they’ll tell you that there’s no such thing as a “typical day.” Working in PR is fast-paced and you’re often working on multiple projects at the same time. Plus, you have to be prepared to adapt to last-minute changes and solve problems on the fly.
As a social media manager, my day usually starts with checking emails and seeing what happened in the social media world while I was sleeping. Afterwards, I’ll schedule social media content for the days, which usually takes me an hour or so. Once everything is scheduled, I’ll dive into a creative project such as writing copy for a digital ad or creating content for our monthly newsletter publication. Throughout the day, I’m constantly monitoring our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and retweeting content. My day is also filled with meetings, brainstorming sessions and a coffee break or two.
G20: What experience did you have with PR before you decided to pursue a career in PR?
OA: I first fell in love with PR (without realizing it) when I was in high school. I was very involved with student council and my passion was event planning. I discovered I loved planning events because it allowed me to be creative and give back to my community.
When I went to college, I originally majored in business and art thinking I’d work in an ad agency. For most of my teenage years, I pictured myself working at a glamorous agency like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. However, I soon realized that this wasn’t the path I wanted to follow and discovered public relations through a career exploration class.
G20: How did you know a career in PR was for you?
OA: During my very first PRSSA meeting was when I discovered PR was the best career for me. All the seniors were talking about their internships in New York City with fashion designers and marketing agencies, and I totally fell in love with their experiences. I knew I wanted to be in a career where I could be super creative and successful at the same time. I also wanted to have the opportunity to do some event planning, grow as a writer, and truly make an impact in the world.
G20: Are there any misconceptions or myths you can debunk about working in PR?
OA: I think the biggest myth about working in PR is that it’s impossible to have work/life balance. Depending on your interests and the type of work environment you thrive in, PR can actually offer a lot of opportunities for work/life balance.
After graduating from college, I knew that working in-house rather than at an agency would be more rewarding for me. Working in-house has allowed me to work for an organization I believe in, collaborate on creative projects, and have time for a personal life.
G20: What types of experiences and coursework should someone who wants to pursue a career in PR do in college? What did you do?
OA: If you’re pursuing a PR career, I highly suggest taking some journalism courses. In fact, I think you should write for your school’s newspaper as well. My journalism experience in addition to my PR courses shaped me into a better writer and taught me how to build relationships with the media.
Additionally, I also think it’d important to take some graphic design classes or at least familiarize yourself with Photoshop and inDesign. When you work in PR, you’ll be asked to update a newsletter or make website updates. These tech skills will definitely take you far in the field.
G20: What’s the best way to get your foot in the door at a PR agency? Any insider tips you can share?
OA: Personally, I haven’t worked at a traditional PR agency, but I can offer a few tips. My first PR job was a digital PR and content marketing firm, where I had the opportunity to work from home full-time. When I landed this job, I had to prove to the employer that I “walked the talk.” This meant proving to her that I was a strong writer and possessed the skills my resume highlighted.
I’d have to say the best way to get into an agency is to know the right people. Networking will take you extremely far in the PR industry, and you’ll be more likely to land an agency gig if you started as an intern or have made some strong internal connections.
G20: In your opinion, what’s the best part about working in PR?
OA: The best part of working in PR is the opportunity to be creative every day. I love the fact that I get to pitch my ideas to my boss and see them come to life through my work. It’s also amazing to see the outcomes of your hard work pay off — such as having guests at an event saying they love your Facebook page or are impressed by a brochure you created.
G20: What’s been the most challenging thing?
OA: Being creative 24/7. I know I just mentioned that I love PR because it’s a creative field to work in, but it also requires you to always be creative. At times it can be a challenge to always have your creative switch “on” and it’s easy to get burned out. However, I’ve found the best way to battle creative burnout is to constantly collaborate with others, ask questions, and find new ways to be inspired.
G20: Finally, what does it take to really thrive in a PR career?
OA: If you want to be a successful PR professional you need to be tenacious and have a strong passion for what you do. If you want a job where you can go to work from 9-5 simply to collect a paycheck, PR isn’t the right field for you.
Public relations requires you to truly invest yourself in your work, discover new ways to engage your target audience and maintain valuable relationships. If you don’t have this type of energy or positive attitude, it can be difficult to thrive. The bottom line is: You need to be willing to do what it takes to go above and beyond to succeed for your clients or organization.
Olivia Adams is a Social Media Manager and PR professional. She blogs at OliviaAdamsPR.com. Connect with her on Twitter @OliviaAdamsPR.