When I tell people I work in public relations, I often get one of two reactions: “Oh, you mean advertising?” or “So, you’re like a spin doctor?”
Admittedly, for a while, I didn’t know how to describe my career choice either. Even when I declared it as a major, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. It’s an ever-evolving field, so the exact definition, to some PR professionals, is fluid. But many, including myself, will tell you this: we are in the business of building relationships.
We build relationships between businesses. We build relationships between a business and their employees. And we build relationships between a business and the public. At McKeeman, we like using the analogy of dating: in the beginning when you’re courting someone, you’re really just getting to know each other and seeing if you even like one another. Then there are times when you’ve been together for a few years and something happens that puts the entire relationship at risk, but you’re willing to fight for it.
Either way, that’s where we step in.
I fell into public relations because I started out in customer service when I was younger, whether I was volunteering or it was my first job. My part-time gigs fostering connections with others became something that I really enjoyed. Customer service is, by no means, perfect and it is not always fun. It takes patience, empathy, patience, listening and patience (at least for me). But there’s a sense of accomplishment in helping someone get whatever it was they were looking for – and I channeled that skill into my career.
Of course, public relations is so much more than that: there’s also writing, strategic thinking, event planning, and everything in between. For me though, customer service was the foundation for my career path. It allowed me to foster relationships and serve as a resource for those who had an investment in the brand/company I was representing at that time. And when I was successful in that role, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, so it was a no-brainer to seek a career that would allow me to dive deeper into that skill set.
So when I tell people I work in public relations, I’m no longer tripped up by how I’ll respond (although I can’t always help the involuntary eye twitch when I’m associated with spin). Instead, I just tell them I’m in the business of fostering relationships.