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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

What Does a Public Relations Manager Do?

“I love the creative element on my job and the importance of thinking strategically in order to beat out the competition and put your clients on top.”

Public relations manager talking on the phone
Image courtesy of Patrick Pierre

This article is part of InHerSight's What Do You Do? series. This series explores the working lives of women by job title. Readers can get a glimpse of what it's like to work as an account executive, software developer, restaurant manager, and more.

Public relations is a great field for those who are great communicators, negotiators, writers, and strategists. It requires tech savvy, knowledge of the media, hard work, and adaptability. Sure, you may get to rub elbows with some powerful, talented, or famous people, but be assured this is not always a glamorous job. 

We spoke to two women in public relations about their backgrounds and experience, what their workdays look like, what they love about their jobs, and what rough days look like. 

Maisie Heine headshot

Maisie Heine

Assistant account executive for the PR&I (public relations and influence) capability at Ogilvy Chicago 

In public relations since 2018

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role? 

I went to school at Washington University in St. Louis and majored in English literature and minored in communication design. During my college years, I worked at the student newspaper and had an internship at a magazine, thinking I might go into an editorial-focused career after college. However, after I had a PR internship my senior year, I realized that I loved working with clients to help craft their stories and identify the ways that they can intersect with what’s happening in the world at large.   

What do you do for the business as a public relations account executive? 

As an assistant account executive in the public relations and influence space, my role is to shape brands’ narratives and create stories that help earn my clients a place in the news and in culture. I work with clients to craft stories that break through the noise, and then pitch those stories to reporters and editors to help generate media coverage and awareness around my clients’ brands, products, services, and initiatives.   

What does a typical workday look like for you?  

8:00 a.m.: Wake up, coffee, read that day’s Morning Brew, scroll through Twitter, listen to NPR News Now or the NYT’s The Daily.

9:00 a.m.: The first thing I do when I open my computer everyday is scan the news for any coverage of my clients that published that morning or late the night before; if there’s any coverage, I’ll flag it for clients in an email and then put it into a coverage tracker. 

10:00 a.m.: Connect with my media contacts on any client news or programs coming down the pipeline, answer any questions they have, send them assets for their stories like hi-res photos or fact sheets, respond to their requests for executive quotes, and coordinate with our samples team to send them product samples. 

12:00 p.m.: Lunch, hang out with my roommates, see what my favorite Instagram influencers and TikTok stars are up to (it’s part of the job!). 

1:00 p.m.: Brainstorm with our PR&I, account, strategy and creative teams to think of an integrated program that will get our clients their share of attention and fulfill any of their other business objectives as outlined in the brief. 

2:00 p.m.: Work on a press release announcing a new product, initiative, or partnership, an op-ed on behalf of a client, or an executive briefing document.

3:00 p.m.: Status call with our clients or with an internal team to sync up or on all of our projects and get updates from leadership.

4:00 p.m.: Check out any recent news from the day to see what other competitor brands are doing and how they are being covered by outlets that are relevant to my clients.

5:00 p.m.: Connect with paid partners to give or receive updates on upcoming or current partnerships. 

5:30 p.m.: Virtual happy hour with the whole agency!  

What skills do you need to be a PR professional? 

Strong writing and communication skills: Writing press releases, op-eds, quotes, and statements on a daily basis requires a confident writer, especially since you’re constantly communicating with people who write for a living. To me, a PR professional’s greatest asset is the ability to clearly communicate a brand’s point of view, mission or reason-for-being in a way that will resonate with the brand’s key audiences—so strong communication skills are a must! Part of that is also being able to cut through a swath of information to identify newsworthy stories, communicate them in a compelling way to media and, ultimately, make headlines for clients.  

Culture and trends obsessed: Since the most important part of a PR professional’s role is strategizing ways our clients can intersect with culture and hijack trends, it’s super important to always have a pulse on what’s happening in the world. PR is all about making our clients more culturally relevant; in order to do that, you first have to understand what’s relevant in culture to begin with. 

Collaboration and open-mindedness: Especially in a larger agency setting, it’s not uncommon to be working across a number of different teams and capabilities. In order to make the best campaigns and do the best work, it’s important to put egos aside, listen to others’ perspectives, and embrace integration. You also shouldn’t be afraid to get uncomfortable and push the boundaries of your world view or perspective—leaning into that tension is, again, what will produce the best work.    

What’s the toughest part of working in public relations?

Pitching media can be a tough gig when you’re faced with a ton of consecutive rejections. Reporters for top-tier media outlets get hundreds of pitches from PR professionals everyday, so it’s not uncommon to never hear back from a reporter even after following-up with them two or three times. The key is to never take it personally and work on building a rapport with your key contacts so that you are more likely to hear back from them, or receive solid feedback.

What do you like about your job?

I love the creative element on my job and the importance of thinking strategically in order to beat out the competition and put your clients on top. When brainstorming creative ideas or activations designed to get media and consumers interested in our brands, it’s important that we don’t take ourselves too seriously—having fun is a key part of the process! Working with a team of smart, creative people who are just as passionate about the work as you are also never gets old. 

What’s a common misconception about your job?

When some people think public relations, they think press releases, period—but public relations is so much more than that! While PR has traditionally been about finding ways to insert our clients into the news, media and the ways that people get their news are rapidly changing everyday, with PR changing right alongside it. For this reason, it’s super important for people in the industry to stay on their toes, never get stuck in a rut, and always be thinking about new and optimal ways of working to get results. It’s a faced-paced industry, and an exciting one to be in at that. 

What would you say to someone who’s interested in working in public relations?

The responsibilities of an account executive can look very different for different people, depending on the agency or company you’re working at and the clients you’re working on. The good news is that almost every kind of business needs public relations to exceed, since every business will have a need to communicate externally to consumers, stakeholders, customers or within their own business community at some point. Given this, it’s the kind of industry where you can take your career to a ton of different places. Stay curious and hungry to learn more.  

Read more: What Does a Customer Success Manager Do? 

Antonia Donato Headshot

Antonia Marie Donato

Account executive at RLM Public Relations

In public relations since 2015

What’s your background and how did you end up in this role? 

I was previously in similar roles for different agencies, with a focus on lifestyle clients and consumer packaged goods. At this agency, there’s a greater emphasis on emerging technology sectors.

What do you do for the business as an public relations account executive? 

I work to positively enhance the profile of emerging technology clients in the cannabis/CBD, artificial intelligence, and entertainment industries by generating news coverage across broadcast, print, and online/social channels. I also work on the company’s content creation team, designing and editing content on behalf of our clients.

What does a typical workday look like for you?  

Since we’re all working from home in the COVID era, a typical day starts by meeting with members of my team over Zoom and reviewing the top priorities of the day for each of the accounts. This meeting also gives us the opportunity to share recent media “hits” (press coverage we’ve successfully secured), media interviews we’re working on finalizing for our clients, and new ideas. 

The rest of the day generally consists of a mix of phone and email outreach (“pitching” reporters a client’s news), writing copy (new pitches, client bylines, etc.), and staffing interviews with clients and media members over phone or Zoom. 

In between, I’m usually collaborating with members of my team via Slack on client projects. We also have a daily “stand up” meeting in the afternoon where we talk about how pitching is going, announce what media opportunities we’ve secured, and discuss any challenges we’re running into. When not writing, pitching, or researching ways to secure a top-tier placement for a client, I’m usually updating media lists for the agency, tracking news coverage, preparing reports of secured media hits, and participating in strategic planning meetings geared toward message development and press goals. Toward the end of the day and after hours, I’m monitoring the media—researching new story angles to use as opportunities for clients the following day. I also take “down time” as an opportunity to network with journalists and research media members that would be interested in our clients’ stories.

What skills do you need to be a PR professional? 

Research and curiosity: Beyond keeping abreast of the news cycle, it’s essential that account executives understand their clients’ businesses inside and out, and that means keeping track of industry trends for new story angles to pitch. 

Creativity: The most effective public relations professionals are remarkable storytellers. It’s helpful to possess a propensity for risk, the willingness to test new strategies and tactics when others you’ve tried do not deliver results quickly enough.

Strong verbal and written communication skills: In addition to a meticulous obsession for correct spelling and grammar, you need to have the ability to produce engaging copy—content that people will enjoy reading. Along with superb writing skills, you spend a vast majority of your time pitching journalists over the phone and over email, so the ability to project unwavering confidence and convey your client’s message succinctly and clearly is a must.

Time management and organization: Much like the media, account executives work under tight deadlines every single day. To have a piece of content ready at a moment’s notice when asked for it or stay on top of a seemingly endless amount of tasks, it’s essential to have a personal system for keeping track of everything that works for you. 

Resilience and enthusiasm: You need to have resilience to deal with the amount of times you hear the world no—sometimes from journalists who may not have the time or interest to write about your client. It’s important to not get discouraged easily and always be pitching—a no can just as easily be turned into an eventual yes. 

People skills: Power publicists are star networkers. I wouldn’t say it’s a requirement, but it helps to be congenial, empathetic, approachable, and a great listener. Knowing what makes people tick and the ability to be a team player who contributes is essential.

Read more: How to Network Without Feeling Gross

What’s the toughest part of being a public relations professional? 

Making things move as fast as you want them to. It often takes several calls, back-and-forth emails, and convincing before a journalist gives the green light to move forward with a story. The role is not for someone who struggles with patience, is indolent/blasé, unenthusiastic, or gives up easily. Success requires daily perseverance, a positive/upbeat attitude, and willingness to take as much action as possible to get results.

What do you like about your job?

So much! I’ve always been extroverted and fascinated with the media. I’d originally wanted to study journalism before switching to marketing, so connecting with new reporters every day is like getting the best of both worlds. 

The variety of multiple accounts is intense and exciting—I’ve done in-house PR and agency, and I prefer agencies every time. I love the rush of juggling multiple accounts, the constant hustle of pitching new announcements, and the blissful euphoria of landing a great hit or interview. I look forward to working with my teammates every day and bouncing ideas off each other. No one day is the same; every day there’s a new challenge and I’m driven by that—it never feels dull or stagnant. 

What’s a common misconception about your job?

There are many misconceptions, but the one I heard a lot (pre-COVID, of course) was that people thought my job was this sexy, 24/7 whirlwind of events and parties. Now that we’ve entered a 100-percent virtual workforce, that couldn’t be further from the truth. But even before the pandemic, that was never the case. Yes, there were launch events, client parties, coffee dates with journalists, book signings, etc., but despite what you might see on TV, a lot of an account executive’s work is done over the phone or on her computer—either writing, researching, ideating, or calling reporters to ensure a story gets placed. There’s a ton of hard work and persistent follow-up to land results that your client can be proud of. The long nights, bouts of writer’s block, and incessant phone calls are not always depicted in the movies!

What would you say to someone who’s interested in working in public relations?

Go on LinkedIn, research others who have the role you’re after, and send them a message introducing yourself and your desire to understand their industry better. I found a great investment is LinkedIn Premium—it allows you unlimited messaging to contacts outside of your network so you can reach out to people you’re interested in learning from or working with. Sharpen your oral and written communications skills—join a local Toastmasters (virtually), get in the habit of writing every day as well as reading voraciously, or perhaps take a technical writing skills online course. You may even want to start gathering clips of your best writing samples—they will come handy in any interview. 

Last but not least, think about the accounts you’d be most excited to represent. Health care? Technology? Law? You’re going to be juggling a lot of accounts, so if there’s an opportunity to specialize in an area that you’re passionate about, it’s worth looking into.

Read more: What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

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