7 Things No One Tells You About a Career in Startup PR

7 Things No One Tells You About a Career in Startup PR

I’m a sucker for those posts. The “You Know You’re in PR When” or “10 Ways Agency Life Has Ruined You” posts. Because usually, they’re a good laugh and let’s face it - we can all relate.

Has agency life ruined me? Pfft. Nah, I’ve got this. But I certainly did take a moment to stop and reflect on a life in PR, earlier this Fall, when a communications student reached out to interview me for a college project. She wanted to know what my life was like as Director of Public Relations at Onboardly.

That’s when I panicked. Here’s someone who’s yet to join the crazy world of PR and is still protected in the bubble that is college. Do I sugar coat my response? Or do I take a chance, tell it like it is, and risk scaring her off into another profession?

You see, while a career in public relations is incredibly rewarding, it’s also very capable of stealing at least a tiny shred of your soul.

To better prepare yourself, here are 7 things no one tells you about a career in startup PR.

1. Leave Your College Textbooks Behind

Right out of the gate forget what they taught you in college. Sure, if you’re planning to graduate and do corporate PR or work for the government, OK. Remember how to properly cite your sources and write a dry press release. But if your heart is set on startup PR - here’s a secret: hit reset and start fresh.

The press release? It’s not your professors release. Startup PR publicists need to tell a story - not state the facts. You’re not going to hook TechCrunch with a two-page release filled with corporate mumbo jumbo, but you will hook them with a neatly bundled email pitch with a compelling story, the three biggest facts they need to know, and the promise of an interview with the founder and an exclusive.

2. No One Knows Exactly How Much Your Cover is Worth

In the world of marketing, we can measure everything. Traffic, sign-ups, downloads, PR? Think again. So often, we’re asked how a story on the homepage of Entrepreneur will convert to sales leads. The answer? Your guess is as good as mine.

PR is quite honestly the hardest thing to track and to measure. Which is why we’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into developing a pretty bad-ass PR measurement process at Onboardly. But even we know that we still have a long way to go before we can put a price on that Forbes cover. So if you’re setting out to prove your self-worth with each media placement or hours spent pitching, consider another industry.

3. The Client Isn’t Always Right

I waited tables all through university. I was conditioned to the golden rule of customer service: the customer is always right. Sure, nine out of ten times the customer was totally at fault, but I’d never admit that.

In agency life, you will quickly realize two things:

  1. The client is not always right.
  2. You are actually allowed to admit this.

While clients are paying premium retainer fees to work with you, ultimately funding your paycheque, it’s acceptable to respectfully put them in their place and politely correct them when they are wrong. In many cases, this means shooting down a bad idea or critiquing their company assets or processes.

It’s not always an easy conversation, but you will grow from it and your clients will respect you for it. After all, they’re paying you to be the expert.

4. Don’t Have a Backbone? Grow One.

Embrace rejection. It’s the only way you’ll survive and grow as a PR professional.

We all remember our first pitch. How sweaty our palms were. How fast our hearts were beating. That moment our breath caught in our throat as our stomach turned to knots. And yes, I’m still talking about our first pitch here, not your first kiss.

While it sounds terribly extreme, it’s happened to all of us. And I can’t promise those sensations will go away after the second, third, fourth, or even hundredth pitch. Every once and awhile, I still send one of those goosebump inducing pitches, waiting with baited breath for the journalist to reply and praying they say yes.

What I can promise you is that over time it will get easier. You will get rejected. A lot. But believe it or not, rejection is a breeding ground for determination. Channel it into making the next pitch even better.

5. Coffee Will Be Your Best Friend

If you’re looking for a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, a career in PR will never be your jam. With technology making it easier than ever to stay in communication, let’s not forget time zones, whether you’re working on the East Coast or West Coast, you’ll find yourself handling emails and phone calls into the evening. It’s the nature of the business and especially the case when working with startups.

That said, if you’re working in a startup environment, chances are your job will allow greater flexibility and remote work locations. These small but mighty perks, ultimately make the late night sessions and sometimes inconvenient phone calls easier.

6. It’s Not Always Glamorous

Spoiler alert: you are not going to be Samantha Jones. Sure, we all like to imagine ourselves with the corner office, iphone ringing off the hook, iMac displaying the Forbes cover you secured while schmoozing with editors over dinner last month. The reality?

Unless you’re repping Beyonce, PR it is not as glamorous as the media portrays it to be, however; it is an exciting career path, will never get boring and will always keep you on your toes. Yes, launches will fail, a journalist will be rude, and a client will at some point in your career question your worth when they don’t land on the cover of Forbes.

Which brings me to my last point.

7. It Will All Be Worth It

Yes, despite everything I have said in the previous six points, if you love what you do, I promise that it will be absolutely worth it. While PR can be exhausting, if you’re career driven, it will be your vessel.

And believe me when I say - it’s one hell of a ride.

Photo Credit: Kaboom Pics

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