Sunday, October 20, 2013

PR in NYC

I've been asked a lot of questions lately about what it is exactly I do and what it's like to have a career in New York City. I thought I'd answer some of those here:

What is public relations anyway?


The official definition of public relations, established by the Public Relations Society of America and the one I had to memorize for many a test, is the "strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

That definition's all fine and good, but the way I like to explain it to people is that PR is how an organization becomes known to its targeted publics and establishes a relationship with them in a "natural," unpaid way. There are a lot of ways an organization can get its message out there: advertising, media pickup, word-of-mouth, social media, events...and most of that is PR. (Just not advertising. We're all about the "unpaid purity" aspect of brand awareness.)


What made you want to go into PR?


I've always been fascinated with media and how it influences a person's behavior and mindset. I originally entered college with the goal of majoring in journalism, but in my Communications 101 class I learned what PR was and thought it sounded interesting. I took both Intro to Public Relations and Intro to Journalism the next semester and ultimately applied to the PR program for several reasons:

  • I really liked the idea of being an advocate for something you're passionate about. The unbiased nature of journalism was always the part I had the hardest time with...I love to editorialize in my writing, if you haven't already figured that out. 
  • I liked that there was more variety. You can specialize in different aspects of PR if you want to, such as event planning, social media, media relations, or crisis communications. You could also go into practically any industry--everyone needs PR (even if they don't know it yet). 
  • I wanted a job when I graduated.


Where do you work and what do you do?


I work at Goodman Media International, a top boutique PR firm in NYC. I love my job. It's an agency, which means I work for a variety of clients in a range of industries, including entertainment and nonprofit, two of the fields I've always wanted to go into. I get to perform a range of tasks and every day is different: one day might be a lot of media pitching, but the next day might include managing an event, tracking recent coverage or meeting with the CEO of a chocolate company. It can be stressful, but it's never boring, and I'm getting a lot of responsibility really fast.

Working at an agency is also a great opportunity to meet people from many different industries, to build media contacts in these industries and to gain experience with a wide range of skills. I highly recommend it, especially for new PR professionals.

What's NYC corporate life like?


I work at a smaller firm, so my experience is probably different than others, but so far I can say that PR in NYC is extremely fast-paced but very worthwhile. New York City is the mecca of the communications world. I'm contacting reporters from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on a weekly basis. I'm meeting CEOs of high-profile companies. I work with nationally recognized clients. This city is the best place to be in terms of networking and gaining experience and I'm still in awe of my life at times. Sure, most of my paycheck goes toward rent, but I wouldn't trade my time here for anything.

One thing to keep in mind is that it is NOT a 9-5 job; sometimes I'll stay until 6 or 7 to make sure things get done, and that's not counting after-work events I occasionally have to attend. And you always have to be checking email, even on weekends, because there could be a client emergency or breaking news that you need to comment on right away. I'm still trying to find the right work/life balance, but thankfully I work at a place where it's ok to take a break for lunch or laugh with coworkers, negating the fears I had gotten from hearing horror stories about other NYC firms.

Finding the right work culture is so important. GMI is a great place to work because everyone here is awesome. Everyone works hard but since it's smaller it's not as "corporate," meaning the hierarchy isn't as intimidating; I get to work with almost everyone in the office and no one's competing with each other to get ahead. Promotions just happen naturally and everyone's really happy for each other when someone gets a great hit or achieves a personal victory.

Plus, you can't beat the view:


What advice do you have for someone wanting to go into public relations?


First, you have to enjoy communicating with people. You don't have to be the world's chattiest person, but you can't be afraid of picking up the phone or walking over to someone and striking up a conversation. I'll admit that's still the scariest aspect of PR to me, but with time it gets easier. You also have to be a good, concise writer. You need to have a thirst for knowledge and stay up-to-date on current events. You need to be both creative and logical--this is definitely an industry that utilizes both parts of your brain.

If you're in school and think PR sounds interesting, take an intro class. If your school doesn't offer public relations as a major, try mass communications or marketing, while staying informed by reading articles about public relations and talking with people in the industry. Here are a few links to a couple of my favorite PR sites:
Definitely do a couple of internships. For one thing, the best way to know if something is right for you is to just go out and do it. Second, public relations is very much a start-from-the-bottom, work-your-way-up field. Most entry-level positions require at least one internship (usually more). Take advantage of every opportunity. Even the littlest things can lead to greater things down the road.

And if you're graduating soon and entering the job market, my number one advice is to not get discouraged. It can be frustrating trying to land that first job, but I promise things will work out. One thing to remember is that a major part of getting a job is about who you know, so don't be afraid to ask for informational interviews or to attend industry events and introduce yourself. Get to know as many people as you can; you never know when something might pop up!

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