“I Work in PR and My Family and Friends Have No Idea What I Do”

May 20, 2010


With a following of more than 4,400, I assume this aptly titled facebook group is not just a tongue in cheek play at the supposed ignorant masses, but more of a cry of frustration from an embattled group of PR professionals! Ok, that may be slightly melodramatic.

Like all support groups (momentarily forgetting that I have never actually been a member of a support group – although something I might consider in future if my shoe collection keeps expanding at its current rate), I find it is important to share a qualm such as this with like minded individuals in order to gain understanding and formulate a workable solution. Or at the very least it gives us a sympathetic ear to whinge to.

To understand the frustrations of a PR professional all you need to do is put together a list of the people in your life such as friends, family and even clients at work, and it becomes obvious just how easily definable most peoples professions are.

Take for instance;

My parents are both teachers – simple. My brother in law is an engineer –another concise, one word answer to that loaded question, ‘what do you do?”. And out of my friends one is a lawyer, one’s a nurse, one is in sales, another’s a teacher- all one word responses with comprehensive connotations.

Now if I had a solid ten minutes to run people through what I do at work, and what I achieve, I’m sure they would be suitably impressed and possibly even emerge with a new found respect for Public Relations. Unfortunately this is not usually the context.

Scenario One:

“So what do you do for work?”

“I do PR, what do you do?”

“Oh great, my sister is a PA. Is your boss nice?”


Scenario Two:

Filling out forms at bank/post office/generally

“Profession: Public Relations”

“Is that like customer service?”

Yes, I work in a call centre.

Scenario Three:

“So, you said you do PR? Do you get free drinks when you do those alcohol promotions at the pub?”

Absolutely! Plus I get to wear a bright yellow, vinyl, cat suit with a beverage brand name across the front of it. Yep. That’s what I do at work every day.

You would think that as PR professionals we should all be able to explain what we do. We are highly skilled communicators, correct? We are articulate, literate, and great at conveying messages across different mediums. Talk about adding insult to injury.

All PR professionals are obviously different and work on different campaigns, clients and in differing contexts. Universally we deliver key messages for businesses, brands or individuals and give them the recognition they deserve when ‘telling their story’ as Dennis Rutzou, the founder of DRPR puts it so succinctly.

Maybe the solution to this pickle is quite simply an effective PR campaign for the PR industry?

As an aside, if you google “define:public relations” this is entry three:

“Public Relations” is the eleventh episode aired of the TV comedy series Arrested Development.


An episode of a TV comedy series? Is there any wonder the general population is confused as to what PR is?

And Mum and Dad, just in case you’re still not sure…

Public relations is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation (or individual) and its (or their) publics. It’s the key to effective communication in all sectors of business, government, academic and not-for-profit.

PRIA website (www.pria.com.au)

Gill Asbury @gill1984


DRPR’s Delicious links w/c 25 January 2010

February 1, 2010


Onya Magazine: a web zine (and in late 2010 a bi-annual print one too) all about Australian people, businesses, culture, sports, places, beauty, fashion, environment, politics, lifestyle, music, issues, arts and ideas. It aims to be a hub of inspiration and information for its readers.

Australians are #1 globally in usage of social media: Why? – Ross Dawson Blog 

100 Ways To Measure Social Media – Media Post Publications

Facebook for Public Relations – Journalistics

Leveraging Social Media, PR and Internal Comms 2010 – Lars Voedisch

April 17, 2009

Now is the time for optimism


I have been hearing rumblings, albeit quiet ones, for some time now; a few quiet words here and there about a feeling of disdain about the amount of negativity in the media.


But it is only now that I am starting to see journalists put aside the hot topic of the ‘downturn’ and reconfigure their stories. Like in the March issue of Nett magazine where editor Josh Mehlman says, “whinging won’t get us anywhere”. He goes on to say that the thing that sets small businesses apart is their optimism. Where some people see gripes and grumbles, they see opportunities.


There are businesses out there redefining themselves and shifting their businesses to match the current economic climate. This may include incorporating PR into the marketing mix, taking more of the business online and reconfiguring their services to offer more value to their clientele.


But the point is, despite the feeling of depression coming from the media, for instance stories on the latest companies that folded because of the downturn, the tide is slowly turning and it is being led by small, dynamic businesses that see opportunity and optimism.


Jo Gitsham

The best conversations are two-way

March 13, 2009

The more I learn about social media the more I realise that it is really about conversations and what I know as a PR practitioner is that communication aims to start or continue a conversation.


The main challenge businesses have with social media is to stop talking ‘to’ their target audiences and start conversing ‘with’ them. But knowing this new audience can be a daunting task. The online audience can be fickle and scathing in its attack but yet it also gives voice to the fans and champions of a brand.


Just by listening, social media can be a fantastic tool of gathering customer information and feedback. Dell has done a great job of doing this with its Ideastorm  site   that allows anyone to comment, provide feedback or give suggestions about Dell’s products.


The main thing we recommend to any business entering the online arena is that the online community isn’t interested in your marketing messages rather they are interested in what you have to contribute. The worst thing a company can do is go out gung-ho and spread their marketing-speak.


For instance, the National Australia Bank’s hit and miss attempt to reach bloggers and those commenting on blogs with blatant sales messages resulted in a blogger backlash.



The businesses that are achieving success with social media are those that are offering interesting insights and most importantly a human personality.


Telstra’s BigPond ISP is on Twitter. The micro-blogging site Twitter is often used by user’s to vent their frustrations and as it is easy to track mentions of brands and topics, BigPond are quick to respond to these outbursts by offering to help solve problems and offer information. Their account attracts many questions and is a good example of a large corporate engaging and conversing with its audience.


Conversations aren’t just limited to the online realm. Any communication issued by a business should seek to engage an audience. Engaging an audience isn’t just about talking about your brand as the best in its field, communicating involves listening to your audience and tapping into what is relevant to them.


I guess it just comes down to, if you want to be heard, join the conversation.


Jo Gitsham

Community Relations: an understated public relations activity

December 19, 2008

Building local community relationships can be the most important communication activity undertaken by an organisation, yet it is often overlooked. As a public relations consultancy with a strong focus on SMEs and franchise businesses amongst others, it is a priority goal we set for our clients to develop a solid, ongoing and reliable community relations program.

For local businesses and franchises, it is important to get to know your neighbourhood and to get involved with local initiatives. This will in turn help raise awareness of your business and services, as well as being a great opportunity to get to know your competitors.

Since any organisation can expect to communicate with a range of community audiences including employees, shareholders, creditors, consumers, the media, the general public and government agencies, an effective communication plan needs to be implemented.

Below are some suggested activities which, when used as a tool with an effective communication strategy and PR plan, can be highly effective in raising awareness of your business within your community. Remember GET INVOLVED!

Media relations:
In a community relations program, it is very important to build relationships with key journalists from the local media outlets. By doing this, you have an already established rapport with them which could be of a huge benefit in times of crisis.

This could mean, for example, sponsoring a local event (community day or fair), donating new sports equipment to the local soccer club or donating a prize to the local schools speech night. This type of sponsorship is reasonably inexpensive yet can be capitalised on to make a great local newspaper story.

Business and community groups:
An increased involvement in key business groups should also be introduced as part of the promotional activities. This involvement will help create visibility of your organisation within a business and community audience, therefore increasing the chances of developing strategic partnerships with other local businesses and groups. There could also be an opportunity for cross promotion in the business groups’ members’ newsletters, publications or website.

What is the difference between hiring a PR consultant or an in-house PR professional?

December 19, 2008

I can’t believe that I’ve been working in PR for nearly 21 years. I started out as a very green communication graduate in February 1987 as a junior consultant with Vion-Rutzou which later became Edelman and worked my way up to senior consultant level with Dennis Rutzou PR.

In 1993 I decided it was time to try something new and moved to an in-house role with Panasonic. This led me to a number of in-house roles including Dick Smith Electronics, Woolworths, Integral Energy and now back with DRPR. So I feel I’m quite qualified to talk about the difference between consulting and in-house.

Both have their merits and drawbacks which I plan to share with you.

Because I’m currently working as a consultant I’ll start with the benefits of hiring a PR agency like DRPR.

Our number one selling point when we are talking to prospective clients is our objectivity. As we are outside a client’s organisation, we can offer them a unique perspective. When you work inside an organisation you tend to be blinkered and, in some cases, a bit indoctrinated. So you can find it impossible to be objective.

Another major benefit of outsourcing to a consultancy is that you can hire someone (or a team) with more experience for the same budget. For example, if you were paying your consultancy $85,000 per year you’d be getting a senior PR person with up to 20 years experience, backed up by one or more junior level consultants. If you hired an in-house PR Manager for $85,000 per year you might get someone who had say five to seven years experience.

There are of course benefits to hiring an in-house person. They can absorb the company culture and have more accessibility. When I worked at Panasonic I became the organisation’s key resource for company history and the person who was called upon when no one else knew the answer.

An in-house person is also available to the organisation full-time so they don’t have other clients to command their attention. Having said that, they are still entitled to four weeks annual leave and at least five days sick leave so if you only have one PR person, you’ll have to do without them sometime during the year.

Often a compromise that many organisations settle on is hiring a relatively junior in-house PR person who is backed up by a more experienced agency. This scenario cashes in on the benefits of both consultancy and in-house and can work well for many companies.

Either way professional communication is something that most organisations need on an ongoing basis or at least from time-to-time so give us a call if you want to talk about how you can enhance your company’s image.

Nicola Rutzou