As Jersey Road celebrates 9 years in existence, Esther Jolliffe, PR Account Executive reflects on how working for the company has challenged her perceptions of the industry.
Jersey Road PR turns 9 years old this week. I’ve not yet completed 9 months with the company, but I’ve learned a heck of a lot in that short time. Before being introduced to the world of PR, I had only heard the term through movies or in relation to publicity stunts. So here are 9 misconceptions of PR - these were my understanding of PR for many years and I’m learning how much more PR is and means to all the clients Jersey Road serves.
PR and advertising are the same
Although it could be argued that PR and Advertising are in the same ball park, they are very different disciplines. Advertising is transactional, a price for a page or a picture - it’s about customer and supplier. PR is all about relationships, building a story that works for a particular publication or outlet and not only giving substance for the issue, but also for the client.
It’s all about the glam
I blame the movies for this one. PR professionals or publicists in Hollywood have a handsfree device glued to their ear, balancing multiple calls on their multiple phones, running on their office-based treadmill at lunch time and probably keep their shades on inside the office. In reality, PR is about real people being inspired by real stories about real people.
PR is a 9-5 job
Coming from an events background, the prospect of turning off the computer as the clock strikes five was a dream. I quickly learned that in this role, even once you’ve left the office, you don’t really turn off. When reading a newspaper or watching the news, your mind wanders to the strategies that have earned this coverage and how that story might engage your client. In PR, you have to be proactive and reactive, the media work fast and we have to keep up!
There is a guaranteed return on investment
Targets. Objectives. Measurables. These words are so present in most organisations these days. There are ways of understanding the impact of coverage, through things like website traffic on the days following an interview, but there is no stamp to define the direct impact of that coverage on donor decisions or targets. We want to make our impact as transparent as possible, but clear ROI is almost impossible.
PR professionals control what gets published
On a paid advert, you can chose every single word on your advert, and you’ll know when are where it will appear in the issue based on the package you chose. PR relies on working alongside journalists and sources, who have their own deadlines and targets. We can open doors and start conversations, but stories can be changed and moulded by journalists, and sometimes discarded due to breaking news. We work on their time scales, deadlines and word counts.
I’ve hired a PR company, I can turn off
We love working alongside our clients, and helping relieve the pressure that many organisations are facing in the changing landscape of media. But that’s exactly what it is, working alongside each other. For PR to be effective, we do need to be engaged with our clients to ensure we are working proactively and reactively to get the best information for the journalists.
You need a Communications or Media degree
All I have learned in my 'less than 9 months’, has been through shadowing and practicing. Despite popular opinion PR can be learned, it just requires persistence, practice and a lot of gumption. I have been on some formal training days, which have been a great way to consolidate practices for the day-to-day and give new perspective to strategies, but bringing those thoughts back into the office and putting them into practise is what counts.
PR = Press Releases
I was told press release writing is different to many other styles of writing - this is very true, but it’s not all that PR professionals write. Thinking up creative ways to pitch a story is a key to the success of that story. If you don’t need to send a press release, don’t. A big part of PR is finding creative ways to tell the story, whether through case-studies or human interest angles, pitching for organisations to write features on topical issues or even an interview with your key spokesperson or ambassador.
PR is all about shmoozing and boozing
Again somewhat inspired by Hollywood, many believe PR professionals spend long lunches, sipping G&Ts and schmoozing with journalists, treating them to champagne in a effort to earn a story - and of course all of this is expensed to the client! The reality is very different, PR is all about relationship, building trust between yourself and journalists. They are far more likely to take your story if it is targeted and interesting to their target audience, than if it’s completely irrelevant but you’ve treated them to bubbly - after all they’ve got their own career to advance. Rather than being in a constant ‘sales’ mode, create a level platform and an equal relationship where the journalist comes to trust and rely on you.
I’m learning that the media landscape is changing and reshaping, the proliferation of the internet has had a huge impact on how news is communicated and accessed. Some suggest that PR is a dying sector due to the constant access and demand for news. Yet I believe this, like much of the above, is a misconception. PR is moving with the times and encompasses so much more than getting an article into a local printed paper. PR is active across print and digital media and with the rise of ‘fake’ news, we are in need of trusted sources - now more than ever.