The world of Public Relations is a fast paced, high intensity environment. But what is PR? And most importantly, why should you as a student be interested in this field of work?
For one, the future seems bright for a person thinking about a career in PR. Estimates from Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a New York investment bank, forecasts that spending on PR will increase from 3.7 billion a year to around 5 billion by 2009.
Who uses PR? Every prominent institution and figure from hospitals to celebrities, that needs somebody to communicate their stories to news organizations. And as news is seen a more credible source of information than advertising, more companies are turning to PR to promote their products.
There are two streams of work you can choose from when entering PR: the client side, or the agency side. Both fields are different in terms of pay and workload. An agency will generally work for many clients at the same time. A client could be an institution, like a hospital for example, or even a hockey team.
In an agency, employees are expected to work longer hours for less money. Students who enter this field are often given less responsibility initially, to prepare them for a heavy workload later on.
Alison Neill, a recent Concordia graduate who is now working with Cossette’s Optimum Communications firm, in Montreal described what type of work she was given when she started at the company.
“At first they didn’t know me, so I was given very monotonous tasks. I found that very hard because university can be very challenging, and I was like ‘I can do more.’ But basically I just kept in mind that, this work has to be done so I might as well do it well because it contributes to the overall success of the project. So if I had to print a lot of copies or put together invitations, I made sure that I did it well. I think the key is to take pride in your work.”
The nature of the work is also different at an agency. Lauren Piercy, a PR consultant Montreal’s National firm explained what is expected out of employees.
“It’s a different work ethic. Working in the agency side at National you are expected to bill 25 hours a week no matter what. So that is different from the client side where you get your work done and then you can finish your day. I think that the expectations for work output on the agency side are very high.”
Most people start in an agency and move on to working with a client. Lynn Bessoudo, a project coordinator at National, explained why.
“I think it’s because in the agency side you get to know the business really well. When you are working from an agency with a client, they will sometimes ask you to come work for them full-time. You make more money on the client side.”
There is no typical workday in PR. Employees are generally expected to perform various media relations tasks.
The objective is to make the general public aware of a client’s product or news. And it’s more than just writing press releases. Workers have to be organized and work on many different items at the same time.
Creativity is another asset that PR employers are looking for. Neill explained a project she recently worked on.
“We just did something for a new show, which is coming out on Bell Express View, Its called ‘La job’. It’s a French remake of the hit series ‘The office’. Because the office is a very drab environment, I designed a brown paper bag and I stapled the cast photo outside of it. And I stuck Post-it notes on the outside of the bag for the journalists, like ‘Louise Cousineau, on vous attend