One way to decide whether a career in public relations is right for you is to read about how someone in the profession spends his or her day. Below is a page from the diary of a senior vice president in a PR firm who wrote everything he did on one Monday:
7 a.m.: Read Chicago Sun Times, especially business column. Read Chicago Tribune, especially business section and George Lazarus marketing column, containing news of public relations and advertising profession.
8 a.m.: Arrive at work, read Wall Street Journal and New York Times, must reading for public relations professionals. Helps you keep up with the national business community of which you are apart.
8:15 a.m.:Write notes to account executive questioning if project on program for promoting awareness of Alzheimer's Disease(early senility) will be completed on time. Also passed on memos concerning First Alert by Pittway, the world's leading manufacturer of smoke detectors, discovered item on Koss Corporation's new video cleaning products in Video Review and passed it on to account executive working on that account.
8:30 a.m.: Drafted budget for project to occur in the next calendar year for Whirlpool Corporation, involving a national opinion study that will be used as a publicity tool and corporate recognition device.
9:25 a.m.: Asked question concerning availability of staff member and reviewed office charts describing who works on what account and what time might be available to help another executive.
9:30 a.m.: Operations Committee. We discuss administrative, sales, and account matters in a frank, open forum. The office is divided into divisions headed by senior or executive vice presidents, and it is these individuals, each of whom have fifteen to twenty-five years experience in the business, who form the group.
10:30 a.m.: After the meeting, staffing the short-term assignment was again discussed; the senior vice president in charge agreed to accompany the spokesperson himself, as a way to learn more about the product.
11:15 a.m.: Just as I was about to leave the office to meet a client at the Premium-Incentive Show, he called. Press kits I thought were approved needed changes. We stayed on the telephone for quite some time, revising several stories outlining First Alert by Pittway's role in the premium market. Companies buy premiums to offer as sales incentives—for example, if a salesperson reaches a goal, he or she may be able to pick from a list of rewards, such as First Alert smoke detectors and Apple Computers. Luckily, the client reached me; he did not plan to go to the show, and I would have arrived at the McCormick Place exhibition hall with press kits that could not be used. Although we get to know a company well, the client has the last word on copy because of his or her own deeper involvement with the day-to-day workings of his or her own organization.
11:45 a.m.: Each year, I teach a public relations course to students at the Francis Parker Evening School. My class last year was particularly successful, and the students have kept up with me, through lunches like today's, by telling me about their career progress.
1:00 p.m. Return to the office. The new press kits are ready. I reviewed them and noticed that in being forced to change them so rapidly, the client's first name was left out of one story. We changed the story and reshuffled the press kits with the corrected release, and I was off to the show.
7:75 p.m.: At McCormick Place, I showed the press kit to the company's vice president, sales and marketing, who had asked his colleague to make the changes with me. He appreciated our quick turnaround. First Alert's management supervisor from its advertising agency was also at the show, and we discussed writing a trade press release on advertising plans for the product. A trade press release is circulated to magazines covering a particular industry, i.e., Retailing Home Furnishings, Mart, Merchandising. When a retailer reads that a company is launching a major advertising campaign to help him or her sell a product, he or she feels that the company is backing his or her efforts.
Also at the show, I visited three other clients' exhibits. Travel is an important part of the premium and incentive industry, and I visited the Jamaica Tourist Board exhibit. Our client there gave me a very fine Jamaican cigar, rolled before my eyes. An example of an incentive within an incentive. I also stopped to see one company whose executives I had met socially over the weekend. This was in the interest of developing new business for the firm.
2:30 p.m.: Arriving in the nick of time, my colleague and I met with the vice president of public and government relations for the Whirlpool Corporation, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Whirlpool, the world's largest appliance maker, worked with us in a number of capacities: marketing public relations, media relations in Washington, D.C., corporate public relations, and was using our facilities in arts and communications counseling and research. We are very proud of our association with Whirlpool, one of the country's best-managed companies. Public relations firms are judged by the company they keep, and being retained by Whirlpool is being in very good company.
We brainstormed—or exchanged creative ideas—on a possible Op Ed article for Whirlpool. Op Ed means opposite the editorial page, and these signed stories by various experts of company executives are effective means of expressing a company's viewpoint in its own words.
4:00 p.m.: We then watch a film on Whirlpool's water conservation made by students at Andrews University in Michigan. It is a very good effort and will be useful when plant officials explain Whirlpool's interest in water in their communities.
4:15 p.m. Return phone calls, answer letters with resumes requesting employment.
4:30 p.m.: Talk with public relations executive at Chicago Sun-Times. We are is arranging a gathering using Sun-Times reporters as speakers for a meeting of corporate chief executives who belong to the Young Presidents Organization or Chief Executives Organization, for those who graduate from YPO at age forty-nine, the maximum age of members. We discuss a small detail and the Sun-Times executive says he'll check with his publisher and call me back.
4:45 p.m.: Sign letters to media urging interviews of a client.
5:15 p.m.: Read copy submitted by others: one press release, one letter. Write letter to a friend at Booz, Allen, Hamilton management consultants, sending him item in our newsletter discussing our graphic design work for his corporate headquarters in New York. My motive is informing him that what is done in New York might also be done in Chicago.
6:15 p.m.: Clean up desk, which is full of papers, and leave the office. I read over a selection of magazines brought from the office. It's a diverse group, reflecting the different accounts I work on: Stereo Review, Audio, and Public Relations Journal. It's been a busy day.