A Typical Day in the Life of a Public Relations Professional in 2018

The irony of the headline above is that there is no typical day in public relations.

I think that’s why most of us enjoy what we do.

For me, there is a skeleton of a day waiting for me when I get to my office, but rarely a day goes by where I don’t have a wrench thrown in my plans.

Every night, before I leave the office, I write my to-do list on a giant whiteboard in my office so I know what I need to work on the next day. I find that if I write down what I have to do, I don’t stress over it when I go home.

My whiteboard.

When I arrive at work to start the day, every task (whether it’s for that day or over the course of the next few days) is in front of me. Even if it’s as simple as a follow-up phone call, I write it down. Not only does it keep me on track, but there’s something therapeutic about crossing off a task on the list.

Once I have my coffee in hand, I’m ready to start the day.

The day always begins with a quick glance at the news to see what’s trending and if any coverage ran for my clients.

Knowing what’s trending also gives me ideas for ways I can insert my clients into other stories, or come up with brand new pitches that revolve around what’s happening in their industry.

This is especially important when there are lulls between news cycles. You always want to keep your client top-of-mind. It does them no good if they go dark when they are not making an announcement.

At any given moment, I have a few pieces of coverage I’m managing. These stem from interviews that have been conducted or bylined articles that have been submitted. If I come across a piece of coverage I’m responsible for, I alert the client.

Once that is out of the way, I get down to doing the bulk of my work for the day, which usually revolves around writing.

Whether I’m writing a press release, a pitch to a reporter, or an e-mail to a client, I would venture a guess that 90 percent of my work is done via the written word.

If you can’t write, you won’t last long. But you also need to harbor a love for writing because it will become readily apparent if you’re just going through the motions.

(Of course, if you are not a good writer, but you’ve been hired to work at an agency, then that might not be your fault.)

If I’m not trying to persuade a reporter to consider my story via email, I’m picking up the phone and calling them. Sometimes it’s easier to reach them that way when they are bombarded by hundreds of emails a day. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an answer from them, even if it’s “no”.

As long as the day go according to my to-do list, I’ve crossed off a number of things and, if I’m lucky, landed some interest from a reporter to talk to a client.

I maintain that we are only as good as the coverage we secure; it’s our currency. If we’re not producing in that department, then what good are we?

Of course, I work with other clients who task us with producing content. Obviously we’re not driving coverage for them through that activity, so that becomes a different deliverable.

Before I know it, the day draws to a close and I start to compile a list of things I need to do the following day. I’ve been collecting them on various pieces of paper strewn about my desk. (See what I mean when I say I’d be stressed out if I didn’t write everything down in one place?)

Before I leave, I make one last check of my email, check Waze to see how bad the commute home will be, then leave the office. At this time of year, it’s light out a bit longer, which is nice. I hate leaving the office when it’s dark out.

***

That’s my day.

It’s nothing sexy, but it’s a high-level look at what I do. I suppose it’s not much different than what a public relations professional did in 1998 or 2008, albeit with more technology.

Maybe someday I’ll automate most of my tasks or the robots will have taken over.

But until then, I’ll stick to my dry erase markers and whiteboard to help me do my job.

Did you read anything that piqued your interest? Let me know in the comments and I can elaborate.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Public Relations?

Artificial intelligence is going to touch nearly every industry in America within the next decade or two.

In fact, according to a study from 2013, nearly half of the jobs in the United States are at risk of succumbing to artificial intelligence within that time frame.

It doesn’t matter if you are a pilot, a truck driver, or a radiologist. Companies are working on technology right now that could, potentially, eliminate the human factor of those jobs very soon.

But! You say. Those jobs are already heavily influenced by tech. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think we could eliminate the co-pilot on an given flight since automation already plays a large role in flying an airplane.

Okay, fine. I’ll give you that. But name a job that isn’t heavily influenced by tech right now.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

That’s what I thought.

Every job is influenced by tech.

It’s hard to think of a job that won’t feel the effect of technology or automation in the next ten years, and that goes for public relations, as well.

When I think about how our jobs will be impacted by AI, I think of the AI that wrote a new Harry Potter chapter.

I’ll save you a click by telling you it was created after training an algorithmic tool on all seven novels. The final result was a chapter hilariously titled “Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like A Large Pile of Ash.”

Granted, it was terrible.

But it shows there are people working hard to train AI to write original content.

This could, hypothetically, find its way into our industry someday.

Imagine if you could have an original press release written just by inputting a few key words or phrases into a software tool that would then spit out your news release?

Don’t you think companies would be willing to invest in that tool that could write something in a quarter of the time as a human writer?

Maybe the final result wouldn’t be very creative, but when was the last time your press release was graded on its creativity?

Another area where I see AI injecting itself into our work is sifting through data to help us do our job.

Instead of searching Cision for the right reporter, hoping our pitch is in their wheelhouse, we might someday use AI to sift through hundreds of articles to find the exact right reporter who is writing about what we’re pitching, using keywords and search terms to find a target.

In that world, PR professionals and AI work together in perfect harmony and everybody wins.

Those are two scenarios I could see playing out in the near future, and I don’t think we’ll need to wait a decade.

But where we can remain valuable is in the business of relationships.

If you’re a PR person worth your salt, you’ve accumulated relationships with members of the media that are worth their weight in gold. It’s something no robot can ever replicate.

Hell, the word “relations” is in our job title! Robots are not programmed (at least, not yet) to conduct personal relationships. They won’t understand why we value them so much, so they’ll probably ignore them.

No doubt the future of work is going to look vastly different in the next few decades. Everyone is going to have to come to terms with change, and some of it might not be pretty.

But I don’t think we have to bemoan the loss of our livelihood.

As long as we continue to show off our value to our clients in the form of great coverage, born from years of fruitful media relationships and creative thinking, we can probably stave off a robot public relations uprising, or, at the very least work, work hand-in-hand with AI.

But if that fails?

I, for one, will welcome our PR overlords.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Twitter Is Fleeting, But That Doesn’t Mean You Should Avoid It

For all of its troubles, Twitter remains my favorite social media tool.

There is always new content to see, even if the the algorithm behind what I see doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I mean, where else can you have a conversation with a best-selling author and watch the President of the United States set policy with his tweets at the same time?

It’s quite a time to be alive.

Even though there are about one thousand hot takes about the death of Twitter, the service continues to thrive for the reasons I mentioned above.

Plus, Twitter has shown signs of life as recently as the end of 2017.

As long as high-profile users use it to make announcements and communicate with the world, it will never die.

But as with a lot of things on the social web that capture our attention, the tweets we react to are fleeting.

The tweets don’t go away — nothing ever truly goes away, even if you delete it — but our attention span is set up so that we like, retweet or rage against, then we move on and wait for something else.

Staying power on Twitter is only as strong as the length of time it stays in our collective Twitter consciousness.

If you’re sitting there thinking I’m making an argument to stay away from Twitter to promote your business, I wouldn’t say you’re completely wrong. It takes a different strategy to be successful on Twitter.

Nowadays, the brands that excel are the ones that treat Twitter for what it is: a community that rallies around hashtags and tries to capture a few seconds of user’s attention.

Last night, after Super Bowl LII, Duracell promoted a tweet that was heavily tongue-in-cheek. Only the most in-the-know sports fan, or Philadelphian, would understand the reference.

Here’s the tweet:

Duracell shared content that was both controversial and really funny. As you can see by the tweet, more than 19,000 people liked it.

I bet those 19,000 people didn’t give it a second thought after they acted on it.

Duracell, for their part, only had to spend a little bit of money to get their brand in front of a captive audience still reveling in their team’s victory. The fact that there wasn’t outrage (look up the Philadelphia battery incident for more background) is a bit surprising, but it shows brands can still take risks and not lose face with their target customers. (I’d love to see what they had planned had the Patriots won.)

To that end, your company doesn’t have to break the bank to get started on Twitter. You don’t have to spend any money if you don’t want to (services like Unsplash provide free imagery you can use to spice up your content).

And becoming active on Twitter is as easy as developing an editorial calendar that incorporates existing content (blog posts, infographics, etc.) so you don’t have to create new content.

The content you share at first (and, really, all the time) will be fleeting, but that doesn’t mean you should stay away.

People are still coming to Twitter to see what our president is saying and interact with celebrities.

Your company would be missing out if you stayed away.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

When Words Cease to Matter

“Fake news.”

Unless you are living under a rock, the term “fake news” is one that is quite familiar to you.

It was coined during the 2016 presidential election as a term to describe exactly what it says: news that is fake.

From there, it has evolved into a term that indicates the user just plain doesn’t like what he or she is reading, so they dismiss it as “fake news.”

I have even seen it pop up in text messages with friends, usually used in a manner that suggests the user is laughing on their end at the absurdity of what they are reading, so they dismiss it out-of-hand and go about their day.

If the leader of the free world can throw around this term haphazardly, they think, then they can use it, too, without repercussion.

Not to get all high and mighty on you, but this country was founded on the idea that the press retains a freedom to print what it wants. And with that freedom comes a responsibility to print truthful and accurate news, at least to the best of their ability.

But when a majority of people stop believing the words being distributed, then we have a real problem.

Imagine, for a moment, that in your job, the people you served stopped believing in you.

If you’re the boss, you might as well start polishing off that résumé.

If you’re the captain of the team, get ready to relinquish that title.

If we are to live and work in a functioning society, then there must be norms by which we adhere to, and that doesn’t mean we get to decide on a whim what to believe and what not to believe, while dismissing what we don’t agree with with two simple words.

I’ve argued (and will continue to argue) that everyone needs to learn how to better communicate. We can’t achieve that goal if we fundamentally disagree with the narrative that is supposed to inform millions of people.

The term “fake news” was born out of a desire to express, simply, that a man didn’t agree with what was being reported.

It is a simple solution to a problem that could eventually have devastating consequences.

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

Marketing is Overwhelming

It is very easy to bite off more than you can chew, especially when it comes to marketing.

Every day, it seems, a shiny, new marketing tactic comes across your desk that is the MUST HAVE tool to add to your marketing arsenal.

Content marketing. Social media marketing. Experiential marketing. Influencer marketing.

It’s enough to make your head spin, and that’s speaking from the perspective of somebody who does marketing and public relations for a living.

Imagine if you are a small business owner who needs to market your business, while at the same time make money to keep the doors open and employees happy?

Whew.

It’s easy to understand why marketing is so overwhelming.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be all things to all people. (Or, in this case, your current and potential customers.)

It’s smart to focus on one marketing tactic until your in-house marketing is in a good spot.

There has been a lot of buzz surround email marketing lately, and for good reason: it doesn’t take a lot of time to send out a twice-weekly or monthly email newsletter to your customers.

Services like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy to create and manage an email campaign. All you have to do is write it, plug it into a template, and schedule it for distribution. These software programs then allow you to see what’s resonating and how many people are opening your content.

Of course, you can always meet your customers where they hang out with a social media marketing campaign. A simple social media editorial calendar will help you streamline your content and plan for posting accordingly, and Canva provides some easy-to-use tools to make your content stand out.

But now that Facebook has announced plans to prioritize the content your friends and family post over that of a publisher or business, it remains to be seen how effective your content will be when posted to the newsfeed.

But just because you think you are good at multitasking doesn’t mean you should multitask, and this goes for marketing, too.

Don’t do it yourself if there are more important tasks to be completed.

Hire somebody to do it for you.

There are a lot of people who can help you market your small business so you can focus on the business side of things. If you’re unsure of where to turn, Upwork is a good place to start. You might get into a bidding war with a few freelancers, but you can see the work they produce before you decide to work with them.

Like the headline of this blog post suggests, marketing is overwhelming, and if you spend too much time getting into the weeds, you’re going to become frustrated.

Marketing your product or business, however, is also essential, and therein lies the rub: you have to do it but it can’t come at the expense of running the business.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash