Aspiring PR agency professionals may be attracted by what seems like the industry’s more glamorous or high-impact moments. But if you talk to people who work in public relations, there’s plenty that makes for sleepless nights. In the agency world, there’s the daily stress of waiting for journalists to say yes, or the pressure of the big new client presentation, for example. Before taking that position at a PR agency, consider these things that PR people sweat over.
What keeps PR people up at night
The PR pro got a hit for the client. She pitched the story, got a reporter to commit, facilitated the interview, and was told it would run. Hmm, don’t see it. The client is waiting. Refresh. Still nothing. The PR rep has been promised a story and in turn has made promises. But it’s not live and the reporter isn’t answering emails. What happened?
Sometimes breaking news will shelve a story. On rare occasions, a journalist may get sidetracked or overwhelmed and forget to communicate. Then it’s up to the PR pro to explain it to the client, which is a tough task, because she did everything right. It’s enough to keep a person up at night.
Will anyone come to my (PR) event?
Mounting any kind of media event is tantamount to planning a small wedding. But for the PR team, media attendance is a critical barometer of success. We manage thought leadership panels for B2B clients, and the best industry panels are well-attended, promoted, and covered by key media – but only if they show up! Sometimes the RSVPs come flooding in, but bad weather, breaking news, or simple bad luck can depress turnout. A typical PR team puts forth their best efforts, only to toss and turn all night hoping media who said the’d attend actually do so. A paltry turnout can spell disaster.
Orchestrating media interviews
PR pros like to be in control. We don’t like to be on the outside looking in when it comes to media interviews or briefings. So, when we’ve secured an out-of-town briefing between a client and journalist that we can’t attend, we tend to lose sleep. Will the reporter be on time? Will the client put his best foot forward? The PR pro plans for every contingency, but sometimes things happen – and those things keep us up at night.
Media embargoes are pretty common practice in tech PR, because skilled professionals want to make the most of any news announcement. Embargoes are a great tool for both PRs and journalists, but they don’t come without stress. One of the outlets may jump the gun and break the embargo. As a result, others may not publish the story as agreed, reducing the story count. The PR team can make a mistake leading to a poorly timed press release that breaks its own embargo, thereby damaging relationships with reporters. With so much that can go wrong with embargoes, it’s a wonder anyone gets any shut-eye.
In the tech realm, clients may rely on positive product reviews from analysts and customers. In the same way customers look at comments on Yelp to choose a yoga studio or vegan bistro, most B2B decision-makers consider online reviews before making expensive investments on behalf of their enterprise. What if the result of the team’s efforts is rotten tomatoes? A powerful type of product review comes in the form of an analyst report. You can arrange a key analyst meeting, hoping for a glowing report that will position the client as an innovator and thought leader – and generate new business. But you can’t control the outcome, and at some point, it happens that a hard-working PR team has managed to facilitate… a bad review. Many feel helpless in the face of bad analyst or user reviews, because there’s usually nothing we can do to change them. See this earlier post for tips on better analyst relations.
There’s nothing worse than finding out about a client’s crisis situation by reading the news. When somebody inadvertently or purposefully leaks bad or damaging news, the PR pro is pressed into the unenviable task of damage control. Another insomnia-inducing scenario is when a PR team has an unpredictable or provocative chief executive who goes off-message on social media. The comms team (and the board of directors for that matter) for Tesla certainly lost some sleep this week over Elon Musk’s tweets about turning Tesla into a private company.
All the above PR sleep inhibitors have something in common. The things we worry about most are those we can’t control. It’s the same in any profession. So go ahead and pursue that PR career, but be forewarned. PR people work hard and play hard, and become addicted to the fast pace, especially in the New York PR agency world.
See this earlier post for advice on nailing that PR dream job!