Death to the PR stereotype

Developing a positive professional reputation requires a commitment to hard graft and consistently exceeding expectation, writes Ned Ellison of Haggie Partners.

Beating the PR-man stereotype is a hard task in itself, argues Ned Ellison
Beating the PR-man stereotype is a hard task in itself, argues Ned Ellison
Proving your worth to an employer, as a junior PR, is the easy part. Quality of output and hours spent in the office will always speak for themselves. 

The biggest hurdle for junior professionals is in earning the trust and confidence of clients and journalists. 

Agencies are chosen by clients for their sector specialisms, their leadership and reputation. 

Meanwhile, when you start out, the only kudos you have is the brand you work for, which is relied upon as proof of ability and good character until a working history can back it up. 

Much like the estate agent, the paparazzo, the traffic warden or used-car salesman, the reputation of our profession, justified or not, precedes us. 

The pre-ordained stereotypes of a PR practitioner mean anyone introducing themselves in a professional capacity has more to prove than an ability to get the job done. 

Without the benefit of an existing reputation, good character and reliability must be demonstrated to clients early on. 

Trust is gained over time. The sooner you start earning it the better. 

Account executives or assistants should make it their main priority to develop a reputation with the media as a facilitator and not simply a messenger. 

Juniors often find themselves contacting the media to ask for favours; amendments to articles, trying to get coverage for a release and so on. Receptions can be frosty, even when requests are obliged. 

The object of the junior PR should be to make the lives of journalists easier, treating them almost as if they were a client. 

Providing opportunities to engage on key topics, facilitating interaction with people of interest, having honesty and candour when discussing the potential of an announcement that’s not newsworthy; these will all slowly remove you from the stereotype that you carry as a PR with no professional reputation.

Sooner or later account executives find themselves in a position where autonomous judgement calls are required. 

These are golden opportunities to earn the confidence of both client accounts and the media. 
Clients soon recognise the tangible benefit of your being able to put in the same calls to the media as senior counterparts with more established reputations. 

One slip, however, be it the miscommunication of a key message or incorrect advice on the timing of a press release, can take months to recover from. 

Good relationships within the sector you serve and the media that report on it make up a significant chunk of your worth to a client, especially as you rise in seniority. 

The fastest way to demonstrate to your employer and clients that you are capable beyond expectation, and committed to becoming ever more so, is to set out to prove to the media that you’re not a caricature of the PR stereotype. 

As relationships with journalists become stronger, the opportunities to cement the confidence of a client CEO and their board also become a lot less daunting. 

Ned Ellison is an account executive at Haggie Partners

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