When PR professionals hear bad news about a brand, we cant help but immediately think of the poor folks on the PR team who get the unpleasant task of dealing with someone else’s mess during crisis management. This week we have empathy for the PR pros at Samsung, who are almost certainly not responsible for the exploding batteries they have to explain. We also weep for the Wells Fargo team who will be thinking about how to talk about fake customer accounts for months or more.
Even when nothing so terrible is going on, PR pros face some unique challenges. If you are among us, we do have sympathy for your likely struggles. Here are a few of the big ones.
No One Quite Knows What You Do
There’s been one famous TV character “in” public relations in years. Advertising gets Don Draper and all we get is Samantha Jones. Who, as far as we can tell, never actually did any PR. It’s no wonder that your friends and neighbors (and probably your CEO) don’t really get what you do on a day to day basis. Other people think parties and press conferences. You think content, outreach and media contacts.
The News Cycle is 24x7
Even doctors are only on call some of the time. But if you are in PR, news breaks when it breaks and teams are usually small enough that any crisis means all hands on deck. Thinking about turning off your phone or taking a shower? We don’t recommend it.
You Have to Find Small Needles in Big Haystacks
Good PR professionals are always on the lookout for two things. Problems and opportunities. Problems might be a negative review or a big “get” for a competitor. Opportunities might be relevant conversations or potential influencers. The challenge is that the media space where these problems and opportunities live is enormous. All the Google alerts in the world can’t help you find ever one. (Fortunately technology is advancing to help in this area.)
Managing Up is Necessary, but Hard
As a PR professional you are almost never the face of your brand, but you do have to try to manage the executives who are. It isn’t always as easy as you’d think to get people to act in their own best interest. Convincing leaders to invest in PR at all is often a chore in itself. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to guide them through media training and teach them to stick to key stories and themes. It ain’t easy.
Media Contacts Hate You (Sometimes)
The thing about reporters is that they need you and you need them. And you both know it. That makes things awkward. Journalists want access and information when it aligns with what they are working on, but are annoyed by that same offer of access and information when it doesn’t. You’re left to figure out what they want to know and when. You do read minds, right?
Enough of our little rant. We hope it hasn’t depressed you. We doubt it has because PR folks are optimists. We look for the best light in every situation. We do face challenges, but we are seekers of solutions and we find a way to overcome. Hooray for the unsung heroes of every brand! We see you.