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How to Explain Your PR Job at Thanksgiving

Zach Harris,  Kiki O'Keeffe,  Nikki Hess,  Samantha Foley,  Alyza Benotto,  Erica Warfield,  Erin Healy,  John Perilli,  Morgan Wait

If you’re a public relations professional, there’s a good chance that your friends, parents and loved ones have absolutely no concept of what you actually do for a living. Despite the fact that you’ve likely explained it SO. MANY. TIMES. (or maybe they’ve even attended a Prosek Bring Your Parents to Work Day)…it just isn’t clicking.

With Thanksgiving upon us, we wanted to do what every true PR professional does best: get ahead of the story. Before beginning your holiday festivities and breaking out your stretchiest pair of pants, we strongly recommend reading this post so you can be fully prepared to answer the inevitable awkward Thanksgiving conversation starter, “Oh, so you work in PR. What do actually do all day?”

In this post, find out what Prosekians’ loved ones think our jobs entail…what we’re actually working on day-to-day…and how we’d attempt to describe our careers to someone with zero knowledge of PR in two sentences or less.

What People Think We Do All Day

Erica Warfield – Associate Vice President, New York

“When I first started my PR career, the TV series Scandal – featuring Kerry Washington as a crisis manager extraordinaire – was at the height of its popularity. Since my family couldn’t quite wrap their heads around ‘corporate communications and media relations for financial services companies,’ the much simpler ‘She’s the Olivia Pope of finance’ was born.”

Kiki O’Keeffe – Senior Vice President, New York

“After describing my job to my mom the other day, she replied. ‘So…you’re an announcement company?’ And honestly, she’s not entirely wrong.”

Erin Healy – Account Executive, New York 

“According to my roommate, my job is simple: ‘You read the news and find your client’s name. And then you write their speeches.’ (Note: I have never written a speech for a client.)

My mom, on the other hand, is a woman of facts. According to her, PR is ‘The professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.’ If you look closely, this is literally the definition of public relations pulled straight from the internet. Yes, she googled it.

My dad prefers a simpler approach: ‘She gets people on TV.’”

Alyza Benotto – Account Executive, Los Angeles

“My loved ones think I either work in finance or work with celebrities (which I used to do at my old firm so that one is sort of fair), and that I’m the spokesperson that’s totally in control of whatever ‘fill in the blank’ Fortune 500 company we work with. As for what that actually entails, they think I do marketing and social media. Some even think I do accounting because I’ve said that I work with companies in ‘finance.’”

Zach Harris – Account Supervisor, New York

“I once explained public relations using an article from a magazine on the table as an example. My grandma’s response: ‘So this article is actually an advertisement?’”

Nikki Hess – Account Supervisor, New York 

“Here’s a recent favorite from my mom, who seemed to have a passion for overpromising to every single one of my wedding vendors: ‘She works in PR, so she can get you all sorts of coverage AND she can get you on social media.’”

Morgan Wait – Account Supervisor, New York

“Despite telling her that I work in social media many times (for a PR and communications agency), my mom thinks that I work for Prozac.”

What We Actually Do All Day

Erin Healy – Account Executive, New York 

“I do A LOT of writing, and even more reading. It’s also my job to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening vs. what people are actually talking about (i.e., what is resonating).”

Kiki O’Keeffe – Senior Vice President, New York 

"I help companies communicate major announcements or critical matters to the broader public."

Nikki Hess – Account Supervisor, New York 

"I read the news, I try to persuade reporters to include my clients in their stories, and I tell clients why they should (and often shouldn't) do certain things. I also force my coworkers to say hi to my dog during most on-camera (internal!) meetings. In my defense, he's a really good boy."

Alyza Benotto – Account Executive, Los Angeles

“I help run the day-to-day tasks and deliverables for my clients ranging from tech, asset management, a global law firm, insurance and procurement tech companies. On each account, I play a slightly different role, but tasks include work like agendas, action items, trackers and media lists, as well as drafting reactive and proactive messaging, holding statements, strategy planning, writing press releases, etc.”

Erica Warfield – Associate Vice President, New York

“While my day could very reasonably include a client crisis, a reporter meeting and a glass of red wine (Scandal fans will understand), it’s really not a job about spin or cover-up like people might think. We’re the first ones to encourage clients to be transparent and find an authentic way to tell their stories.”

Zach Harris – Account Supervisor, New York 

“I raid the [office] snack cabinet.”

How We’d Explain Our Jobs to Someone with Zero PR Knowledge

Zach Harris – Account Supervisor, New York

“I help manage how companies speak to the media.”

Alyza Benotto – Account Executive, Los Angeles

“I work at a communications agency that works with a variety of clients in industries like tech, financial services, insurance, etc. to help them with their proactive and reactive messaging and position their spokespeople in the media to garner revenue and exposure for their company.”

Samantha Foley – Associate Vice President, Boston

“See that person on TV? Someone had to put them there!”

Erica Warfield – Associate Vice President, New York

“We work with financial services companies to navigate the media landscape and raise their profiles among key audiences.”

Erin Healy – Account Executive, New York

“I act as the liaison between the news media and my clients, to help them push messages out to their target audiences. I support the growth and well-being of their brand name and help them source a platform where they can share their thought leadership and professional insights and advice.”

Kiki O’Keeffe – Senior Vice President, New York 

"As my mother would put it, we’re an announcement company."

John Perilli – Vice President, New York

“I try to get The Wall Street Journal to answer my emails.”

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