PR: The Beginning of a Career

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Although it is a highly specialized occupation, PR requires no specific credentials. Its most common requirement may be a modest ability to write and a desire to communicate. Two neighboring industrial companies of equal size may hire PR managers on the same day and that may be the only thing they have in common. One newcomer may report to the president, the other to a staff supervisor in personnel or an assistant manager in marketing. The trend is toward PR reporting to top management in corporations but the majority of locally based PR managers or directors are in subsidiary companies or plant town divisions: PR personnel on the local level is increasing. Even so, PR is becoming more and more a top management function, either in a satellite company or division or at corporate headquarters.

PR and Publicity: When he enters, the newcomer is most likely to see a room having desks equipped with typewriters. If several practitioners man the department, each is more likely to have a typewriter on his desk than a dictating machine. Even the top PR's corner office desk will have its typewriter. Although not all practitioners have secretaries, the number of clerical assistants in PR usually matches the number of professionals. Unlike copywriting for publications, most publicity and other PR writing requires finished, professional appearing copy that can be handed directly to a production department.

Publicity is most often the starting assignment for beginners, but in larger offices the first jobs are on matters of functional department interest: top management assignments are handled by the experienced people. Usually the PR manager handles publicity concerning the president, financial and other corporate material.



While the average staff has two practitioners, most of the practices evolve from the big departments or from PR agencies and consultants. It may be obvious and expected, but the "two men and a girl" office operates identically with the big units. Each small office employee has a wide variety of work, but once he has acquired the necessary versatility his skills appear to expand to meet the need.

In general, business PR offices are the most democratic. That is partly a result of the publication news room influence, and partly because most practitioners work on several assignments simultaneously and have little secretarial help. Work piles up on desks and sometimes on the floor. Even in big companies where organization rules are usually inviolable, few PR offices expect visiting executives or counterparts from other departments to make appointments or to honor them when they do.

"On the Job" Training: When PR was young a business generation or two ago PR was generally included in larger company training programs. College graduates commonly were given "working tours" of departments two weeks or a month in several or later almost every key employee in a moderately sized organization can be important to PR. Even though no great allowances are made for "orientation," most of the first month should be devoted to internal fence building. In all sizes of community or company, some fellow employees already have acquaintanceships among the public, and with media, that can be helpful to the new practitioner.

The Politics of PR: In the PR career, either in the business or non profit fields, the practitioner becomes involved in three levels of relations that are parts of the craft. These are: 1) Public he deals outside, usually operating through channels; 2) internal relations with his colleagues and superiors to establish the maximum cooperative climate; and 3) his contemporaries in the field, fellow PR men whom he meets on his assignments. None of these levels or specialized aspects needs be in conflict with the others, but it is not uncommon that the practitioner is faced with a choice: he must resolve an apparent conflict of one kind or another.

Reporters and editors say that their ability to secure and print stories depends upon their sources that apply to PR practitioners also. Their sources are invariably internal for matters related to their own industry, trade or community. For matters outside their industries or communities the best news and information source may be the trade itself, or the community.

What's Vital to Business?: When a candidate is starting in an industry, his first area of exploration, outside the company, usually is the industry itself. If his assignments are community oriented, he looks to the community for his starting cues. While plant town or branch store operations PR is best handled where the top monthly PR aims at the trade or industry media telling dealers of the profit potentials and the product line characteristics of the manufacturer's products.

Trade and dealer activities undoubtedly involve the greatest number of practitioners, and the multiple level interest of dealing with both profit agents and users gives this type of PR a high place in the business world. Even more important are PR corporation activities because they seldom allow any great margin for decisions. Because all publicly owned stock issuance is subject to some governmental regulation, PR must either know these, or be working with financial officers who do.

PR and Stockholders: It is estimated that fewer than one half of PR practitioners in business concerns are involved in handling announcements subject to regulations. Although governmental and security exchange rules always require some disclosure of results, many companies do not go beyond the minimum disclosures required. These might include notifying the nearest daily newspaper and one or more specialized financial papers, in addition to the report to the proper governmental agency and a security exchange.

Where a company's stock is publicly traded, either in a formal exchange or in the "over the counter" market, the tendency is to seek other attention when its news is favorable. PR practitioners do not take it for granted that they are familiar with disclosure requirements from one year to the next. It is the responsibility of financial officers to be familiar with PR who works with them.

In companies with public stock the internal PR function is purely advisory. Often it is almost entirely an effort to steer the plan for disclosures beyond requirements so it will not incur undesired reactions. By the time a practitioner has developed a comprehensive stockholder announcement plan, official of the area involved is the superior for the PR executive, if major activities are employee related the practitioner must work closely with the personnel manager. It is common among industrial companies for the president or manager to make announcements on employment situations of company operations involving the employment outlook. This practice can be short sighted where the personnel department head is encouraged to speak only when the operation is in trouble, either with the union, or for a community dereliction.

Formulating Company Policy: Every enterprise has several publics with whom communications should be sustained. In general, they coincide with the publics that general management must consider in formulating company or institutional policy. In point of nearness to the company's success potential, its market may be considered its No. 1 public. It is believed that more companies expend more dollars on marketing PR than on other essential publics such as employees, share holders, suppliers or governmental relations. This results from the fact that marketing is not only its greatest cost, but the sales function is often the major profit area.

National companies manufacturing or otherwise supplying a product/service to purchasers who will resell for profit have as their first market level the wholesale or distributing function. Projects aimed at them are geared to profit considerations. In turn, such companies may be consumer producers: supplying goods that distributors sell to dealers, or that they sell directly to consumers. It is vital to PR to know which of these methods is used by their manufacturer employers. Should the product go through distributors and dealers and sell in sums exceeding §100 per unit, PR might supply to dealers material for local publicity. More often almost every key employee in a moderately sized organization can be important to PR. Even though no great allowances are made for "orientation," most of the first month should be devoted to internal fence building. In all sizes of community or company, some fellow employees already have acquaintanceships among the public, and with media, that can be helpful to the new practitioner.

The Politics of PR: In the PR career, either in the business or non profit fields, the practitioner becomes involved in three levels of relations that are parts of the craft. These are: 1) Publics he deals with on the outside, usually operating through channels; 2) internal relations with his colleagues and superiors to establish the maximum cooperative climate; and 3) his contemporaries in the field, fellow PR men whom he meets on his assignments. None of these levels or specialized aspects needs be in conflict with the others, but it is not uncommon that the practitioner is faced with a choice. He must resolve an apparent conflict of one kind or another.

Reporters and editors say that their ability to secure and print stories depends upon their sources that apply to PR practitioners also. Their sources are invariably internal for matters related to their own industry, trade or community. For matters outside their industries or communities the best news and information source may be the trade itself, or the community.

What is Vital to Business? When a candidate is starting in an industry, his first area of exploration, outside the company, usually is the industry itself. If his assignments are community oriented, he looks to the community for his starting cues. While plant town or branch store operations PR is best handled where the top as PR manager, then have the president assign him to prepare a story for release to the industry's trade or technical press, "warning of unsound pricing practices," he should not proceed to circulate the story, even though he may be able to write it, until he has discussed the subject with an editor who has stature in the industry. Even well established and experienced practitioners often discuss controversial statements made by officers for publicity, or to correct a practice they consider unsound, with outside editors, either before they are written or before release.

There are advantages in titles, but newcomers whose original positions in smaller organizations designate them as "PR Manager" must be careful that their early performance is in keeping with this title.

Internal PR: Our discussions relate almost entirely to "outside" PR programs aimed at audiences outside the organization. Very often an exception will be some type of internal or employee communications such as company publications. Unless the PR function is a segment of personnel or industrial relations, the PR emphasis will be on matters in which some part of the public is concerned.

In plant city operations of large corporations the PR will most often be responsible to the local manager. Unless it is a fairly autonomous subsidiary, it is not likely to have local financial and marketing operations. Instead, its communications emphasis is towards the community as it is affected by employees or their programs. The local community relations program is as important as financial and marketing communications.

When the starting practitioner is hired as PR manager, reporting to the local general manager, his first need will be to establish relations with the department or functional division heads and with specialists such as engineers. Sooner offices orient themselves to company ways. As PR has crystallized techniques that are unique with its function, organization experts tend to permit "on the job" orientation rather than the broader exposures to other functions.

By the time a starting practitioner is on a PR payroll, he undoubtedly has weighed his choices carefully and is aware of differences between profit companies and public service agencies, between top management PR and marketing publicity; and if he has been hired by the industrial relations director, between company publications and community service programs. In large companies, a practitioner may be around a long time in corporate PR and never meet his counterpart in marketing or personnel. While a PR candidate may find suitable employment reporting to a plant manager in his home town, if his ambition is to move into the company's headquarters PR organization, he should mention that at the time he is engaged. This is not to get credit from his original starting point for pension or other fringe benefits. Some companies do not have promotion lines from divisions or subsidiaries. In most instances where plant town and other indirectly related employees are in line for headquarters promotions, the candidate should expect to meet the corporate or over all PR head when he is being interviewed.

The Language of PR: Titles in PR vary greatly in keeping with the company's size. In smaller companies, new arrivals from campuses are often employed with titles of "PR Manager" or "Director" in their original assignment. In big organizations the newcomer may not have any title , his material will be signed "staff." In so far as both are new at the craft, their progress will depend upon how well and how soon they become proficient in their assignments.

Should a recent graduate join a smaller industrial concern? Even the top PR's corner office desk will have its typewriter. Although not all practitioners have secretaries, the number of clerical assistants in PR usually matches the number of professionals. Unlike copy writing for publications, most publicity and other PR writing requires finished, professional appearing copy that can be handed directly to a production department.

Publicity is most often the starting assignment for beginners, but in larger offices the first jobs are on matters of functional department interest: top management assignments are handled by the experienced people. Usually the PR manager handles publicity concerning the president, financial and other corporate material.

While the average staff has two practitioners, most of the practices evolve from the big departments, or from PR agencies and consultants. It may be obvious and expected, but the "two men and a girl" office operates identically with the big units. Each small office employee has a wide variety of work, but once he has acquired the necessary versatility his skills appear to expand to meet the need.

In general, business PR offices are the most democratic. That is partly a result of the publication news room influence, and partly because most practitioners work on several assignments simultaneously and have little secretarial help. Work piles up on desks and sometimes on the floor. Even in big companies where organization rules are usually inviolable, few PR offices expect visiting executives or counterparts from other departments to make appointments, or to honor them when they do.

"On the Job" Training: When PR was young a business generation or two ago PR was generally included in larger company training programs. College graduates commonly were given "working tours" of departments two weeks or a month in several for any of several objectives; he will be well on the way to maturity.

Summary

Newcomer in PR office will usually receive only in service training. First assignments will probably be publicity releases or routine. His title varies from "Director of PR" in small company to "staff" in large corporation.

The first area to be explored in business PR job is the industry itself. For all types of PR work the various "publics" for communications should be identified, such as trade, dealers, users, company employers, stockholders, etc.

Questions

What communications targets would be indicated for the new PR man hired by the industrial relations director? Why mention your career ambition in first interview?
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