If you’re an accountant or a doctor, your job function is pretty clear to everyone. But when it comes to Public Relations, people still expect a further explanation. And you can’t blame them – this is still a very ambiguous industry. So ambiguous, that in fact, a few years ago, Public Relations Society of America announced it had 927 different definitions for this industry. And though today there are far fewer interpretations, it’s still one of the most misunderstood disciplines in the field of communications.
This week we’re talking with Laura Tyrylytė, a PR Manager here at Tesonet, to debunk some of the myths about this job function and to understand what it takes to become a seasoned professional in this field.
Everyone seems to have a different understanding of what PR is. How would you define it?
Well, PR can be very different and that’s why everyone has a different understanding of it. I would say that first of all, PR is about relationships. Relationships with customers, influencers, decision makers, politicians, non-governmental organizations, potential clients, journalists, the public in general, etc. It’s about communication with the public, relating to it to create and maintain that relationship.
What creates confusion is that, even though we as PR managers have some guidelines and disciplines we follow, everything mostly varies depending on the organization and its goals. What tools, techniques, channels, and even the workflow structure used – that’s all defined by the company and the needs it has.
When it comes to PR, many seem to think it’s the same as advertising. Is it somehow different or not?
It’s somewhat similar, as both PR and advertising have almost the same goal. They both need to spread a message about the company, its products, events, projects, etc. But how it’s done is completely different.
Advertising is usually about creating various paid promotions through digital, print, TV, radio and other types of media. It usually has a very specific and controlled message that needs to be conveyed to the audience. And of course, the space for that message is paid for by the advertiser.
PR, on the other hand, is building mutually beneficial relationships between a business entity (or NGO, governmental institution, etc.) and its audiences. In other words, as PR managers, we’re putting effort into making sure that both the organization and the audience are benefiting from the coverage. Of course, unlike with paid advertisement, it’s less controlled. That’s why for us it’s extremely important to build strong relationships.
How important is PR strategy? Do you need to have one at all?
Definitely, yes. A PR strategy is the backbone of your reputation and relationships with your target audiences, partners, and the general public. It defines your voice, the most important messages, and helps to organize daily PR activities. There’s no doubt that you should have some kind of PR plan outlined.
As to when creating a long-term PR strategy, it’s essential to understand the most important business goals, products, target audiences, the company’s mission, vision, and values. Short-term PR plans are much more flexible. They include daily tactics, activities, leading projects, topics and can be redefined every quarter or even month.
Whatever you choose, winning attention from audiences might seem like a big lottery. But PR is an excellent way to get more tickets.
How do you get the biggest media moguls to cover your story/news?
It’s one of the most challenging, but definitely the most interesting parts of the job. When you work with global products, your PR strategy is global as well. And that’s what you should always keep in mind.
Everywhere in the world journalists need quality stories, exclusive details and numbers. However, how you approach them might be completely different. To make sure your story is covered, you need to understand how these media moguls are thinking, study the content they publish to see if yours match their standards and of course, not to forget that their culture plays a huge part as well, in whether your story will get published or not. For example, for awhile our team was trying different ways to reach China market and see how we can change our content to fit their taste. Turns out, it’s not the content that was bad – it was the delivery. Journalists in China rarely read emails, but they are always ready to receive a pitch through WeChat (a popular local messaging app). It’s a bit unorthodox to do outreach like that in the PR world, but we need to play by their rules.
So, how does one start a career in PR? What kind of skills do you need to succeed in this industry?
Studying PR or communications can help but isn’t necessary. Many PR professionals have an academic background in political sciences, law, business administration, history or philology. In PR – experience is always more valued than a PR or media degree.
First of all, you should be a good manager, be persistent, have strategic thinking and be able to ‘see the whole picture’. And then, of course, have excellent writing skills. Experience comes later.
If you have the ability to build relationships with different people, love solving problems, if you are not afraid of multitasking and fast pace – then PR career is for you and you’ll find a way to succeed in it.