ON PR'S IMAGE ISSUE.
Note: This is a conversational piece. Summer in Ibiza. A friend and I, both educated PR professionals, queue at a famous club for our night out. The guy behind us asks what we do for a living. I smile as I hear my friend respond „I work in PR“. And within a second my smile turns into a frown and internal rage when the the guy asks, „PR for a restaurant or club?“
Yes, because that is what PR professionals do: promote clubs and hand out 2 for 1 pizza vouchers. That is what I went through five years of higher education for. That is why I hold a BA in Public Relations and an MSc in Corporate Communications. But the PR stereotypes don’t just exist amongst party-goers in Ibiza.
It seems to be a global issue, right Imola?
Right! In the US, where I’m originally from, PR is perceived as a job for shallow, materialistic girls who think they’re special and that what they do is “so important”. A few months ago I came across an article on Elite Daily called “33 Things Every Basic B*tch Likes”. Number 28 on the list was “Working in PR”. This pretty much sums up how American’s feel about women working in PR.
Well, the American stereotype got one thing right: PR is so important. In today’s world analyzing your clients’ market, developing strategic campaigns to reach their target audience, developing social media campaigns to build their digital presence, communicating with stakeholders to create new business opportunities, monitoring all media and news stories, consulting your client on brand development and handling crisis communications are just a few of the PR activities we deal with.
And I think this is partially the problem. When done correctly, PR is an integrated part of business, yet defining the wide scope of work to someone who does not work in the field is difficult.
Would you agree, Natascha?
Certainly. There are theoretical definitions of PR, yet these do not make sense to a six-year-old trying to explain to a friend what their mom or dad does for a living. I would hereby like to welcome our readers’ suggestions!
A simplified definition alone won’t solve the issue though. PR has the existing stereotypes because there are more than enough people out their claiming to be PR professionals without the slightest understanding of how companies function.
Millennials are now growing into the profession and have to set a benchmark and make people understand that PR is not tweeting product photos; that is a tactic, which is part of a greater strategy.
Is there anything you’d like to add, Imola?
Millennials are the link between the old and the new. We appreciate and still use classic forms of PR, but we also know how to implement new methods.
And unlike in other parts of the world, I feel like PR professionals in London are respected. People of all ages are open-minded and welcome new ideas. When I tell a business owner in his late 40s that I work in PR, I get an approving nod. People take me seriously and are always interested to learn how PR can help their business.
Natascha, you told me that the market in Germany is not as welcoming yet, correct?
Yes, the start up scene has slowly started pushing diversity, yet most companies, especially the established ones believe experience comes with age and young PR professionals often struggle to prove their value. I hope specialized companies like yours and mine can change that.
Do you have any concluding thoughts, Imola?
Simply put, PR is necessary for the success of any brand or company. Business owners know that. If the public knew that then I’m sure PR professionals around the world would be held in the same utmost respect I receive with Gold Engel Ltd. here in London.
What are your final thoughts, Natascha?
I’m personally hoping that PR professionals like you and me can make a difference. And when my future kids are asked what their mom does someday, everyone will know what they mean when they say, „she works in public relations“. Similary the way everyone understands what a pastrey chef or doctor does.
Natascha Rupp founded and manages Rupp Public Relations GmbH in Munich, Germany.
She aims to make potential clients understand that PR is a long-term investment that needs to run transparently alongside all other business activities.
Imola Tuzson is the Director of Communications at Gold Engel Ltd in London, UK.
She aims to help people understand the importance of PR by showing businesses how they can profit through use of PR initiatives.