Mylene, in her early 30s, is a PR manager for a non-profit organization. As PR manager, she develops and implements national PR and marketing programs to increase the profile of the organization. She is also the senior editor of the organization's national e-newsletter, co-chair of the marketing committee and advisor of a national educational program. Mylene has a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Toronto and a certificate in public relations from Ryerson University.
Stephanie: What exactly do you do as a PR manager?
Mylene: As the Public Relations (PR) Manager, I manage the public relations and marketing for the organization. This involves communicating and building relationships with people that we need to reach. These would include various stakeholders such as our members (our customers), influencers, industry/government representatives, educators, and the public-at-large.
My responsibilities are so diverse that I am also required to have a diverse set of skills:
- I develop and implement PR/marketing programs. These programs require promotional material, including brochures, flyers, presentations, advertisements, etc., which I oversee.
- I am often in direct contact with journalists. I provide them with news stories that may pertain to the organization and/or a particular 'hot' issue/topic. I also direct them to experts/spokespeople to interview for these news stories.
- I write, edit, and disseminate new releases, advisories, speeches, articles, proposals and formal business letters.
- I also provide support to local and provincial divisions of the organization by giving them PR/marketing guidance and advice.
Aside from my PR manager role, I am also the senior editor of the organization's national e-newsletter, co-chair of the marketing committee and advisor of a national educational program directed to high school students.Stephanie: How is a PR manager’s job different than what a PR rep does?
Titles vary from one organization to another so it's hard to compare titles. I see a PR manager as someone who oversees and is, ultimately, responsible for a PR department or at least a significant portion of the public relations function. In some organizations, a PR representative might very well have these same responsibilities. In other organizations, the PR representative would report to a manager and would not have such broad responsibilities.
Regardless of the title, all PR professionals are, to one degree or another, representatives of their organizations.Stephanie: What made you decide to work in public relations?
A friend of mine (also in PR) whom I first met at a business function commented that I had the 'people' personality to be in PR and that I should strongly consider pursuing a career in PR. At the time, I had just finished university and was thinking about my next career move. So, I took the first step in learning more about PR and enrolled in a PR course. After taking that PR course, I knew PR was definitely for me. Stephanie: How did you become a PR manager?
The organization that I worked for happened to be in need of a PR professional at the time, which was lucky for me. So, I basically started at the bottom and worked my way up. At first, I did small PR tasks to prove that I was capable of fulfilling my PR role. Then these small tasks began to become bigger tasks. For every successful project/program that I completed, the organization rewarded me with a promotion. Stephanie: What do you like about what you do?
I like the fact that in PR I can utilize both my written and verbal communication skills. Every since I was young, I have enjoyed public speaking. At the same time, I also like writing and analyzing. PR is a way for me to continue doing these things.
I also like the fact that in my job I get to travel and meet/work with a variety of people. There is always something new and exciting in PR. Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Like all jobs there are menial and/or administrative tasks. This could be anywhere from photocopying to conducting follow-up calls. Instead of these menial and/or administrative tasks, I would rather be developing a plan or meeting new people.
I also do not like office politics and journalists who do not return phone calls or acknowledge receipt of your messages. I always treat people with respect, and I expect the same in return.Stephanie: What should a person do if they want to become a PR person? What advice do you have for someone considering working in PR?
They should research colleges and universities that offer PR or communication programs and see which program is the right fit for them. I would advise that they strongly consider enrolling in a PR or communications co-operative program. This will allow them to take what they learned from the PR textbook and apply it to the real work environment.Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a PR manager? Is this something that you continually have to take schooling for?
The quickest and simplest educational route would be to directly obtain a degree in public relations or communications. This is ideal. Combined with professional experience, this should give you the foundation you need to become a good PR manager.
Now, there are also other educational routes. I took the longer route. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English first. Then shortly afterwards, I obtained a certificate in PR. Personally, I found that my English degree proved to be an asset because of all the PR writing that I do (speeches, letters, plans, etc.).
Like in every career, it is vitally important to keep up with your professional development. This means continuously keeping up-to-date with the current trends and best practices in PR, whether through courses at a public educational institution or courses offered by a professional PR association such as Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS)
or the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
. There are also other PR seminars offered by credible organizations that you can consider. Basically, PR is about continuous learning.
In addition, make sure you are always up-to-speed on local and world events. Read the paper and watch the news every day. This is where you will pick up on current trends and learn about new developments/issues that will, in turn, help you when considering/developing PR programs. Stephanie: What famous person or event would you love to manage the PR for? What would you do for them?
There are two famous people for whom I would equally love to do PR. Both of these famous people are completely different from one another, but both face real and exciting PR challenges.
The first famous person is President George W. Bush. It is not that I am necessarily pro-American. In fact, I am Canadian through and through. But, from a professional point of view, with all the hard issues that the White House has faced under this presidency, being a PR professional for the President of the United States has got to be the most challenging and exciting role that any PR professional could possibly ever have. I would want to advise the President on public issues, write his speeches and help develop strategies that would further his agenda.
The second person is Shania Twain, believe it or not. She has become so successful that she really needs a PR professional to help launch her albums and to coach her for television interviews. I would advise her on public speaking and image control (i.e. what to say and what to wear at interviews and public appearances). This is really important not so much for her fans but more for the rest of the audience that will judge her based on how she looks and what she says.
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