Bags packed and off to the smoke. It was almost exactly 10 years ago when I left the comfort of full time education to embark on a career in PR… in what?!
I had no idea what exactly I’d successfully interviewed for, where it would lead, nor what field of expertise I was supposed to be claiming. PR as a profession is vague; it is still hard to explain at parties to your teacher, doctor and solicitor friends.
The 8th floor panoramic view over Westminster and The Thames was soon knocked into touch as I set about carrying piles of newspapers; scanning hard copy coverage into the dark hours and scanning forward planning websites.
Bread and butter
It all used to be about ‘size’ and ‘reach’. If we enlarged an article on screen we were deceiving the client, and anyway a NIB in the Fresh Produce Journal just doesn’t look good blown up. Press office calls were the only out of office demands. Objectives centered around face-to-face journalist meetings and how many coverage books I could make look pretty on time.
With no access to working life in non-working life (remember those times?) it was just the fear of the Sunday papers annihilating your Friday story that brought you back to reality and resulted in the rest of the weekend figuring out how to explain it on Monday morning.
There were some highlights: driving Andrew Castle round London to experience life as a social carer (nope, it wasn’t picked up by the media); being published in the prestigious Irish Nurse (obviously not my by-line), and getting into bed with the British Tomato Growers Association, to name a few…
Managing a live website for a big consumer health brand provided a bit more direction – thanks CMS! However, objectives about changing policy rather than column inches lured me back into charity sector media relations, which by now had edged closer to public affairs (yes of course it makes sense now).
PR’s wider family
Segmentation, behavior change, consumer generated content and co-designing communications plans then started to creep into weekly meetings. Public relations became about involving and evolving public opinion not just influencing it. It wasn’t all about the hotshot interview or Sunday Times feature anymore (though if anyone’s offering I’m not going to say no!).
On joining a big conglomerate I learnt fast how PR really fitted into the whole marketing mix. The audience segmentation data, research, branding guidelines, design specs, policy aims, digital enhancement and a full media relations plan only made up the half of an integrated communications campaign.
Suddenly pitch documents referenced Facebook strategies; KPIs included tweets and pokes; ‘views’ were enough to meet targets, and bitly became every PR’s best friend.
‘P’ is for paperless
Now, as I arrive at my ‘remote’ workspace overlooking the rooftops of St Paul’s, I’ve already provided some client counsel, re-tweeted a flagship campaign from the virtual office in my pocket and am about to continue managing the development of a widget (a what?)…
Ten years, I realise, is only a drop in the ocean of this ever-changing art of communications; when my non-PR friends get it I’ll let you know.