We have all experienced it before at family gatherings when our relatives ask what we are going to school for, and then we see their looks of confusion as we try to explain what our majors actually are. As much as I wish I could say that after graduation we all move onto be the next Olivia Pope, or even a gladiator for that matter, it’s not always like that. It’s often perceived that the role of Public Relations is an unethical career filled with lies and covering up mistakes of the clients, but that is very far from the truth of what PR professionals do.
Public relations professionals work to obtain free publicity for their client. This can be done in any number of ways – traditionally press releases are sent to journalists containing the information needed to write a positive story about their clients. A press release is a compelling news story that makes it clear why the client’s service, product, announcement or personal history is important. It is usually very short, and the goal is to make it easier for the journalist, however it is not controlled media.
One thing I think our generation can agree on as aspiring PR professionals, is that we could not be happier that social media is becoming a huge aspect of the job for PR professionals. Social media is a great tool brands use to reach customers and it’s FREE. For example, Oreo utilized the opportunity of the power outrage in the 2013 Super Bowl, to tweet one of the most famous and memorable tweets of 2013. Social media makes free publicity one tap of the finger away from the consumer. PR professionals are their own type of genius when it comes to utilizing the social media outlets.
PR professionals are also trained to do damage control. This is where the Olivia Pope aspect does come into play. “All publicity is good publicity”, well we all can think of a time where that is not always the case. Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s recent actions in the public eye are just a few examples of where all publicity is not always considered good publicity. One piece of bad press can change how the consumers perceive a brand. For example, when a woman said she found a finger in her chili from Wendy’s, (even though it was a false accusation) how many of us waited a few months or even years before trying Wendy’s chili again? PR professionals will create a ‘PR Crisis Management Plan’ to respond quickly and proactively when a story breaks that could hurt their reputation. This is a way to map out how the brand will react to the crisis and what their next steps need to be.
What’s unique about working in PR is that every day is different. As rising PR stars, our majors might seem confusing or unethical to those who do not take the time to notice that PR is everywhere. Next time you see a mind-blowing creative tweet or press release issued only minutes after ground breaking event, know that there is a team of PR stars who live to make that happen.
Chelsea Amato is a junior studying Strategic Communications. You can follow her on Twitter at @Chelsea_Amato.