Job Swap: My Day As A PR
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I let Kelly at Pure PR take over my job for the day – she ran my blog with access all areas for one day, and today was my turn to have access all PR areas.
In lots of ways, it wasn’t too far from what I expected, but there were definitely some surprises. I was totally up for anything, but my stomach was literally churning when I was asked to cold call journalists to pitch a story idea. One of the Pure clients had a very strong idea of how they would like the pitching angle to go, but to me, it was a non-story – I wouldn’t have picked up on it myself, so I spent ages thinking of three different ways to pitch it; two of which were stories I hadn’t seen done before. I’d been specifically asked to phone journalists rather than email and just trying to track down their numbers (many are only available by email) was a mission in itself. Personally, I don’t like it when PRs call my mobile to pitch stories (because I work from home and if I’m on my mobile it means I’m out and about) so felt distinctly uncomfortable doing it myself. I needn’t have worried though because nobody answered anyway. In desperation, I phoned a journalist I already know and explained I was PR for a day and to treat the pitch accordingly. She liked one of the stories a lot, one a little and one not at all. She very kindly then sent it through as an idea to one of the newspapers she writes for, so you never know – maybe that idea will become a feature and get the client what they wanted. Except, it won’t be quite what they wanted because I had to think out of the box on it and the pitch was actually quite far removed from the original client request.
Which brings me to another observation: expectation. Everyone is on a tight budget; lavish spenders in beauty world are the sole preserve of huge brands; smaller brands need to make the most of every penny. What that translates to is, in my view, very often above and beyond what they’ve actually paid for.
Kelly took me along to a client brainstorm, which just happened to be one of my favourite brands, so that was an absolute pleasure. We worked around what is at the core of the brand and how be more inventive in getting those key messages across. However, it’s a smaller brand and therefore smaller budgets so it was question of finding what is achievable within that that will excite and interest journalists but stay true to the brand. I felt slightly frustrated that limiting budgets makes creativity very difficult and there is definitely a lack of understanding about what press are already bombarded with. Sometimes a bit of budget is what it takes to make your way through.
I also went along to a new client pitch – again I really enjoyed this – it was good to be creative and ride along with the passion that every new brand owner has. However, they’re trying to enter a saturated market with limited budget so the job of getting the brand message through is one I am glad I won’t have to do.
Overall, two key observations were that it’s almost impossible to get hold of anyone to listen to your ideas; it’s very difficult to generate those ideas in the first place (because what hasn’t been covered in beauty?) And, it’s extremely tricky to make dreams come true on no budget.
So, did my day give me a better understanding of what PR life is like? Yes, it really did – and particularly pertinent to me was not being able to get hold of anyone. I know I’m hard to get hold of, I find my inbox almost unmanageable, so I understand it from both sides, but what I hadn’t fully grasped is quite how demoralising it is to be the one that can’t be heard. I’d also not understood just how variable the days can be – you need to be reactive, proactive and in a meeting all at once as far as I can see! I thought I would have more time to write some press releases or play on my strengths but the day went so quickly it was impossible to do anything like that. I also saw that every action generates more work: a new client pitch – after the meeting (long), Kelly now has to write that up in a written pitch; all the ideas we put forward to the existing client have to now be implemented and strategized (is that a word?); the journalist will have to be chased on Monday to see if my idea was picked up by the paper… it just goes on and on. A bit like blogging, there is pretty much no end; no job is ever completely done – it always needs refining or continuing in some way. And the emails… they’re endless.
We’re miles apart in what we do day to day – I remember Kelly saying she thought our jobs wouldn’t be so different from each other, but today has really proved that they are. What I did enjoy was being in an office environment (but realising that crisps at your desk is probably unacceptable when it’s quiet) and general chatter – but I found it distracting – great though it was to have someone other than the dogs to ask questions to! I also enjoyed the variety of the day, although I don’t imagine all days are quite like mine was. Behind the scenes was lots of moving of boxes, unpacking product, preparing for postage and prepping for a launch that if I worked there all the time, I’d have had to lend a hand with as well as everything else I did in the day. And it wouldn’t have been one story to pitch out, it would have been many.
Overall, yes, it was an eye-opener – I hadn’t realised the amount of multi-tasking needed or quite how much budget restraints hold back creativity. I’m so glad I did it though!
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