In follow-up to Brandon’s recent post, What do we do?, I thought it would be beneficial as a PR tip to expand on his answer by explaining more about who we are and what we do in University News Services.
When new acquaintances inquire about what I do for a living, I often reply, “I work in public relations.” That’s the easy answer—although it’s far from a precise (or my preferred) description. But people understand “public relations” (at least I think they do).
I could respond, “I’m a writer” (after all, most days I probably devote more than half my time to the craft). But that’s the difficult answer. So nebulous, it almost certainly would elicit follow-up questions regarding topics covered and places where my work appears (which include this blog—requiring more explanation).
Or, I could reply with my official title—or the one many of my colleagues share (and that I, too, wore prior to my rise into the ranks of middle management): senior news specialist. (It sure sounds impressive, doesn’t it?) But, with apologies to former bosses Bill, Neil and Laurie (if they’re the ones who created the title), just what the heck is a senior news specialist, anyway?
More people would likely know what’s meant by “publicist” or “public information officer.” But to me, “publicist” smacks too much of Hollywood. I mean, Paula Abdul probably has a “publicist” (and does she ever need one). And PIO, though quite common, may be more closely associated with the public sector (city hall, police headquarters, military units).
That leaves us with the single best description for what we do: media relations.
I mentioned above that better than half my time is spent on writing. When not writing for one of our publications (such as News & Events or RIT: The University Magazine), this blog, or other internal projects, my writing often targets the media: news releases, pitch letters, photo ops and tip sheets. When not writing reporters, I’m calling or e-mailing them (or, as often, they’re calling or e-mailing me; here’s the beauty of working in media relations for a university rather than a for-profit corporation: as much as we need reporters, they need us—or, more precisely, they need our experts).
When not writing, arranging interviews or otherwise dealing directly with the media, I’m likely digging for news from professors or students—for stories that will eventually be pitched to the media (beginning the process anew). So, as you see, media relations, in one form or another, is a large part of what we do.
Next time: Are we just a bunch of media-obsessed news junkies?