Debunking the Scariest Things About PR

Digital PR
By Nora Panahi

This spooky season at Kickstand, we’ve decided to face our fears. We asked everyone at the agency to share what scared them the most when they first started their PR careers, and any advice they’d give themselves if they could go back in time to quell those anxieties. 

Whether you’re at the beginning of your PR journey or a bona fide expert, let’s take a look at some of the scariest things about our profession and how we can get them to stop going bump in the night. 

Media relations 

Reaching out to reporters at top tier outlets and trade publications alike can seem daunting for even the most seasoned PR veteran. Here’s what some of our Kickstanders had to say about conquering media relations: 

I always thought that reporting was this sort of “holy” position, the fourth estate and all that. But I quickly learned that reporters are just regular people with all the anxieties and issues that the rest of us have. Treating them as human beings and not “oracles” goes much further than exalting them. 

Media relations was one of the scariest tasks for me early on in my career. Back in the day (oh dear), call lists were more the norm and in addition to email pitches, you were expected to call most of your media list. I always had a frog in my throat – in the beginning I was barely comfortable ordering a pizza on the phone, let alone convincing a top tier outlet to cover my story. One of my first media relations campaigns, I called a reporter and ended up referring to them by my own name because I was so nervous. 

Use a casual, conversational tone when pitching reporters. It doesn’t always have to be jargon-heavy or long, complex words! 

If you get a pass from a reporter, do your research. Read what they’ve been writing and what they’re passionate about – this will help you create highly targeted pitches that are more likely to pique their interest! 

Client comms

Building and maintaining relationships with clients can also seem challenging when you’ve just burst onto the PR scene or joined a new account. Our best advice? Trust your teammates and be yourself: 

When you join certain teams, you may hear that a client contact is “scary” or very particular about specific, seemingly random things. It can be like walking through a minefield! 

Sometimes PR professionals get in our heads about perfecting and overthinking the way we communicate and lose sight of the fact that we’re all just people trying to do our jobs. But clients are people too! 

If you’re struggling with the best way to approach a client, lean on your team. Mistakes happen all the time, so ask questions and learn from your colleagues. Never be afraid to ask “stupid” questions internally – that’s what teams are for. 

Crisis management 

When a client is in crisis or you’ve missed an important deadline, it can feel like the end of the world. I, for one, certainly cried to my manager about not getting a press release uploaded on time within the first few months of my PR career. Instead of blowing up at me like I expected, she told me everything was okay and gave me the mantra that’s carried me through crisis management ever since: “It’s called PR, not ER.” And Kickstanders agree: 

You don’t learn crisis management in school or anywhere else but in the field. I was excited to learn from knowledgeable experts when I started my career, but it was a slow learning process. However, once you understand how to navigate crisis comms, you know it forever. 

What we do is incredibly important, but we often get swept up in the urgency of the job. To anyone at the start of your career: show up willing to work hard and be ready to take on anything. PR is full of surprises – both good and bad – and despite how you feel in one particular moment, you’ll have a lot more wins than losses. Oh, and you gotta develop tough skin in this profession. But also, be kind to yourself! You’re already awesome. 

PR never stops. But as we say, it’s PR, not ER. Once you learn boundaries and fine tune prioritization and internal communication skills, it becomes a lot easier. 

Make sure you work for a company with leaders who model work/life balance so that you can learn to enforce boundaries and maintain balance too. 

See, that wasn’t so scary, was it? Reporters and clients are just people dealing with the same internal and external pressures we are, so try to stay out of your head and treat them as such. When you trust yourself and your teammates, you can tackle any task the job throws at you. 

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