When I was a senior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college. But the time was fast approaching that I thought I had to choose what I was going to study. It never occurred to me that I could take a few classes and then decide. So I did something ill-advised and picked what I thought I should major in, something that was safe, easy, expected of me. I decided that I was going to be a high school English teacher. Everyone was always talking about how I was always attached to a book so it seemed the logical choice. I was an English Education major for a year and a half before I finally admitted to myself that I had no desire at all to teach.
Knowing that I had already wasted so much time pretending I wanted to teach, I knew that I needed to decide on a new field as quick as I could. I thought about what I wanted to do and what fields I was interested in when I stumbled upon the Communication Department. After I decided to make the change to study public relations, I had to go about telling my family and friends. And every response went along the same lines: “But you don’t like talking in front of people.” Every. Single. One. To this day when my mother is talking about me to her friends and she tells them what I am studying, I hear the laugh and the “I know she doesn’t like to talk to people.” At this point you are probably wondering what this has to do with anything – hang on just a bit longer.
Hearing this kind of comment over and over again, I’ve gotten used to it. Most people don’t really expect a response, but when the occasional one was requested I would generally give a vague answer along the lines of something like “I don’t have to be the one talking,” or “I’ll be more one of the people behind the scenes.” What I should have been telling them is that the majority of public relations is writing – and message development. Thinking about the responses I always get made me realize that the majority of the general public has no idea how PR really works, all they can usually think of is the people that hold press conferences. No one really thinks about all of the behind the scenes work that goes on – the writing, the brainstorming, the networking – on a daily basis. The more I thought about it the more I realized that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Our job as PR practitioners is not for us to be noticed. It is for us to get our clients, our company, our cause or whatever or whomever we represent noticed. It is our job to create messages and campaigns to further their goals. So really it is a sort of a good thing that people don’t really know what PR people really do, it means that the majority of the people in the field are doing it right. People don’t think of the messages and things they see every day as PR, they think of it as news, as it should be.
We’ve all seen those horrible “stories” that exist simply to get a company some media attention, and they usually get written off as a “publicity stunt.” But the good PR practitioners, they manage to do their job so that what they do for a client has relevance to the public – and essentially goes unnoticed as PR.