"Basically in agencies, we work in teams," explains an account executive in a high-tech PR firm, "so there are people from every level, from account coordinator (that's entry level) to VP. It really helps you learn about the business and understand how your work fits into the big picture." Responsibilities might include writing press releases, setting messages (or determining strategy), preparing for product launches, and setting up conferences and speaking engagements for clients.
"To do well in this business," adds another agency contact, "you have to be very detail-oriented. You have to catch things before the client does, and you have to keep track of a lot of administrative things. You have to document every phone call, remember everything you said to everyone, and remember what they said to you. PR manages communications and deals with crises -- so you can't be the ones making the mistakes." PR professionals also have to be sensitive and relationship-oriented -- not only with clients, but with the media. "You have to respect journalists," warns a contact. "Some journalists hate PR people. They even have journalists come in during our training program to discuss their pet peeves about the process." Another thing you need to work in PR is a sense of humility. "You are always behind the scenes," says a book publicist. "You need to be comfortable with that."
"My office is mostly white and female," one source informs us, "and I think that's pretty much the norm." PR is a female-friendly industry, but few ethnic minorities are flocking to the industry. Like advertising, book publicity and agency work are very family-friendly. Those in political PR point out that their schedules are very hectic and dependent on what's going on in politics.
Moving between agencies "helps you get promoted quickly and increase your salary." Though it's not an absolute necessity, many PR professionals go back to school after a few years in the business -- especially those in corporate PR, marketing, and brand management. "MBAs are more and more common here," says one source, "and I know of people who have left for journalism school."PR is also attractive to young graduates because of the potential for moving up -- not only because the salaries increase, but also because of the career potential. PR offers the opportunity to gain business skills that are transferable to many other industries -- anything from consulting to high tech to media. Furthermore, many find the potential to move into management along a relatively predictable path appealing. This career path gives young PR professionals something to strive for and keeps them away from feelings of helplessness that often characterizes chronically underpaid careers such as journalism.
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