I work in PR and my family has no idea what I do.
I′ve heard my parents accurately describe the company or clients I work for but they have a hard time articulating what I actually do for these organizations.
I used to joke about this when I started my career. I was working for a high-tech PR agency and the trade jargon was difficult for even those in the know to follow. It cracked me up to imagine my mom telling her friends that her daughter "announced the beta of version 8.0 of a front office software platform. She′s drafting the briefing books now for some desk-side media one-on-ones"¦"
The problem is that I can′t explain what I do either! Fortunately I′m not alone. Nearly 2,500 folks have proclaimed on Facebook that explaining what we do is tough for us PR people.
I can′t tell you how many holiday gatherings I′ve been to where different relatives have asked me if I′m still writing for the paper. (I did have a college internship at a newspaper nearly 20 years ago.) More often than not, I just say yes.
My elementary school aged kids are genuinely interested in learning what I do, and I′ve taken pains to explain my job accurately to them. The jury is still out on how successful my explanations are, though. I overheard my daughter′s friend say that her mom drew the picture in a particular magazine (the friend′s mother works for an ad agency) and my daughter replied that her mom knew the person who made the magazine. Our conversations are similar to the one David Moye had with his daughter when she asked "Daddy what′s PR?" although they sometimes take a hysterical turn after we discuss how manipulative the media can be.
Usually I adapt my job description based on how interested the person I′m talking to seems to be and the types of questions they′re asking. I don′t think I′ve ever described my job the same way. When asked what I do for a living sometimes I talk about the purpose of my job, e.g. shaping a brand, influencing demand, generating leads, and sometimes I talk about the actual activities I did that day, e.g. writing a press release, calling the media, tweeting. Of course, everyone tries to understand my work in terms they can relate to and sometimes the conversations end with "so could you help my Uncle Rick with PR for his auto body shop?"
I′m still looking for some new answers to give my mom. How do you describe your work in PR?
Photo credit: Helgasms!
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston′s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. Learn more her here.