This is a question I often get from friends and family members when they reluctantly ask how my job is going.
Do I wear a suit every day and drink on the job like Don Draper in “Mad Men?” Are my nights consumed by parties and sleeping my way into the next exclusive magazine spread like Samantha Jones in “Sex & the City?”
For all of you PR gurus on the rise, I can tell you from first-hand experience that this job is nothing like we’ve seen on either of those TV shows. However, the rewards that come with finding your passion and serving clients that you believe in are far greater than any buzz or one night stand can give you. Below is a brief breakdown of the different hats real publicists wear.
Brand Manager: As a publicist you put a face to an organization’s mission. You must ensure that the branding and messaging for your client reflects the personality of the organization and that it is consistent across the board in print, digital and spoken materials. You collaborate to write, capture and rehearse language organizations use internally and externally to communicate the “so what?”: What they do, how they do it and why what they do matters to the public.
Reporter: At Teak, we joke about playing Nancy Drew all of the time. But in reality, we put our journalism backgrounds to the test every day. As a publicist, we constantly monitor current events in the news and research ways to involve clients in ongoing conversations. We interview and then highlight the people behind organizations in order to share their stories with the public through the media. We are constantly talking to different people who inspire us to be better people ourselves, which drives us to do the research, check and offer sources and write to the best of our ability in order to achieve and exceed desired results.
Marketer: There is an art to forming new community partnerships for clients and to getting stories placed in the media. Similar to a telemarketer, part of being a publicist is being persistent with sending emails and making follow up calls to initiate connections and conversations. You may not always reach a human or if you do, he or she might not be the right person. You will get rejected but must work with resilience as you will eventually get a yes.
Event Planner: To be a publicist, you must be able to work with different personalities in all sorts of environments. At Teak, we have experience planning, promoting and working large and small events from political press conferences and galas, to private parties and athletic fundraising events. As a publicist, you must be as comfortable mingling with media and the public at large events as you are sitting at your desk getting the work done.
Alumni Steward: For nonprofit clients, your number one goal in addition to increasing brand recognition is to ultimately raise money to support their work. Part of your job as a publicist is to work with individuals and groups who benefit from your clients’ products or services and encourage them to become brand ambassadors for the organizations that are serving them.
Crisis Coach: Similar to doctors and other emergency personnel, publicists are on call 24/7 so that they are available to clients if there is a crisis. Helping to place feel good stories in the media throughout a campaign helps to generate a client’s positive reputation in the public eye prior to a crisis. If a situation arises, a publicist is there to step in and take charge, create a strategy, draft statements, delegate action items to audiences and field media calls. Most importantly, as crisis communicators, our job is to keep a clear head and a steady hand. With the advantage of being just that much more removed from the situation, we are able to think and act objectively and provide sound advice and strategy to clients who may be caught up in emotion.
Consultant: In order to succeed in this job, you must learn how to become an expert in many fields. If a client needs help designing a new website, you help to facilitate this work. If a participant has a fundraising question, you do the research to figure out how to answer the question. Over the last 19 years, Teak has become an expert in everything from urban education to climate change, summer camping to nutrition and so much in between. Listening, learning and advising are all in a day’s work. The daily ability to learn about the world is one of the greatest gifts this job provides.
Partner: Ultimately, the key to working as a publicist is to work with your clients and colleagues as partners and friends. At Teak, we embrace each and every one of our clients’ missions as our own. Bringing together different areas of expertise helps us to develop well-rounded campaigns that ultimately achieve desired results.
To be a publicist takes a lot of drive, gumption, determination and personality. Yes, you may have a cocktail at a gala. Or, perhaps you find someone with whom you find mildly attractive to talk to during a conference. And it can be fun to put on a party dress every now and then. But, it takes a whole lot more to succeed in this industry. The really rewarding aspects of the job come from the missions and the people, not the martinis or the parties.