I’ve been a PR practitioner for over two decades (gulp!) There is a certain mindset with both being a PR professional and being an entrepreneur who wants to get media coverage for their brand, products, or services.
First off: What is PR? I know this might seem like a silly question, but so many don’t know exactly what PR is or what a PR professional does. I would always sum it up as “I get people, companies, and products in the press.”
But wait! There’s so much more to it than that. Sometimes we’re trying to keep people, companies, and products out of the press. Or, we are organizing photo shoots, or who’s wearing what on the red carpet; running around picking up samples from designers; planning events and running around with a two-way radio, earpiece, clipboard all while trying to look cute, smile, and appear like we have it all together after standing on our feet for hours on end and going on no sleep. You are the gatekeeper and scapegoat at the same time.
We pitch our guts out to a very fickle media while trying to appease a demanding and ungrateful client with high expectations and a low budget, who always pays late and continually screams at us for not being on the cover of Forbes, or included in a recent article, which included their biggest competitor.
We are always in emergency response mode. Everything has to be done, like, yesterday, if not the day before. We are constantly on our phones. We are up at 5 am and often working until 1 am (the next day), including weekends. All we want for our clients is that media hit or good review.
Damage control? Fuggedaboutit! That’s a whole different realm of controlling the message, making sure nothing that hasn’t been approved by the CEO, HR, company attorneys, and key stakeholders is leaked or mistakenly posted on social media.
Yet, we love it! The intensity of it all literally pulses through our veins. It’s certainly not a job for the faint at heart. It takes a certain mindset to be an entrepreneur, let alone one who is a PR professional. And while we may seem superhuman for being able to do all this with an aura of ease and grace, we are nevertheless human. It can take a toll on us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and in some cases, it has.
This is why self-care is so important. One thing one must-have when it comes to PR, whether you are doing it for yourself or others, is confidence. You are going to get a lot of “no’s”. You are going to get ignored and emails will go unanswered. You’re going to get yelled at. There is A LOT of pressure. You are always chasing someone else’s dream (or trying to make it come true) while always chasing money or the next client. And, in this day and age with the media being the way it is, well, I certainly don’t regret finally retiring from my PR practice.
You are either dealing with your own insecurities or someone else’s. You are constantly filled with fears and doubts. What if they won’t cover me? What if they don’t cover my client, and I get fired? What if no one responds to any of my emails? OMG! No one responded to any of my emails! What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? My client isn’t a name brand? What if I’m not a celebrity or wildly successful entrepreneur? It’s a vicious cycle of ‘what if's’.
First of all, if any of what I’ve said above resonates with you, then I am sending you so much love. I get it! I’ve been there, my wonderful, amazing, smart, beautiful, and strong publicist friend! This is one of the reasons I pivoted into coaching. I needed to make sense of it all. I needed to find a greater sense of myself so I could, in turn, help others find a greater sense of themselves.
Here are some things I recommend to help you maintain your sanity, set boundaries, get paid what you deserve to get paid, and enjoy this incredibly exciting career we call ‘public relations’:
- Set boundaries. When you’re in PR, you are always on. There really is no off switch. This is why it is vital to set boundaries and stick to them. Set clear working hours: no, you cannot call me at 2 am because you decided to switch from the Donna Karan to the Zuhair Murad at the 11 and 3/4 hour. And if a client asks you to drop everything to pump out a last-minute press release, well there’s a “convenience” fee for that, or “Sure. I can rearrange my schedule, but that will eat into XYZ that you asked me to do.” Either works.
- Set clear expectations. Let your clients know exactly what they’re getting according to their budget, and don’t give them much more. If you give them an inch, they will take a whole damn mile. If they are a brand new startup with no product, no celebrity backers, no big round of funding, and no social media presence, yet they want to be in TechCrunch, New York Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal, you need to have that come to Jesus conversation. I mean, it’s not impossible, but let’s be real here.
- Lose the imposter syndrome. Now, what I just said in the previous paragraph may be a deterrent to the: “What if I’m not a celebrity or megawatt entrepreneur?” I am certainly not saying there’s no hope. You can absolutely get media coverage if you have the right message, product, or service that can impact thousands if not millions of lives. The play here is expert positioning. You know your shit. You are a legit resource. Set up an account on HARO and start getting yourself out there! Yes, you will get ‘no’s’. Be prepared for that, but with the right messaging, service offering, and pitch, you could get a lot of “yes’s” too.
- Practice self-care. Meditate, journal, workout, read a great book, buy flowers for yourself; take the day (or just night) off (yes, you can!). Go to a yoga class. Go on a date! Who cares if you aren’t interested. Just get out. Meet friends for cocktails (assuming things are starting to open).
- Be ok with not being perfect. Have you ever sent an email or press release with a typo or incorrect information in it? Or maybe you accidentally spelled the reporter’s name wrong. Or, maybe your client didn’t make the cut and ended up on the editing room floor. I’ve experienced all of there and went into full-blown panic attack mode each time. For what? I’m still here. I still have a great career. I wasn’t fired, and if I was, it was meant to be. Give yourself some grace. Let go of the snafu or awkwardness and move on. You’re great at your job. Shit happens.
- Get a mentor. PR is a TOUGH job. You need someone in your corner to whom you can vent, rage, and bitch; someone who can be in your blind spot; someone who can get you past the frustrations and fatigue; someone who can give you clarity, motivation, and assurance it will all be OK.
- Get paid what you’re worth. Quit trading time for money. You have the experience, relationships, and results. If someone doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth, then they aren’t worth your time and all the value you have to offer. Next!
I know all too well just how little those around us comprehend public relations and the weightiness of our jobs. It is so important to surround yourself with supportive people. Even if they don’t know exactly what you do or why you do it, as long as they are positive and supportive, you’re good. Celebrate your successes, learn from your failures. Give yourself a break. You got this!