The REAL Things PR Women Can’t Live Without

The REAL Things PR Women Can’t Live WithoutThis is a guest post by Emma Duke, a colleague of mine at BOTTLE. Yesterday, PR Daily published an article by a student at Leeds Metropolitan University entitled ’12 Things PR Women Can’t Live Without’. It has, rightly so to my mind, taken a hammering for being “patronising” and “ignorant” (among other less publishable platitudes). Emma, who is currently on maternity leave, felt so incensed by it that she sat and wrote this response after feeding her baby at 5am this morning! It’s not only my pleasure, but my DUTY to publish it on her behalf.


Well thanks PR Daily for your insight into my world. The thing is, I’ve worked in the PR industry for nine years now and, well, let’s just say nail varnish hasn’t featured quite as prominently in my career as the poor student who wrote the article I read yesterday thought it might.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients and colleagues who have focused more attention on my work than the height of my heels (as they should). And, concerned by the impression young women might have of this career, I wanted to respond to some of the points made in the article ’12 Things PR Women Can’t Live Without’, and address the reality of what it takes to work in this industry.

A Smart Phone
OK, yes, I’ll agree with this one wholeheartedly. But here’s a tip: forget about the pad and paper and take notes on your phone (or a tablet – Ed). It means carrying less and letting iCloud take care of important notes, rather than running the risk of losing them en-route (I know far too many stories of this happening).

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
I went through it, I’ve put people through it. The first few months in this job will be and have to be dominated by getting your grammar and proofing into excellent shape. The amount of bright young things who come into PR shouting about how much of a grammar Nazi they are, only to be found weeping into the 11th version of a contact report a few days later, is soul destroying but a fact of life. A copy of Lynn Truss’ book and the patience to proof everything ten times over will improve your life (and that of your line manager) measurably.

Knowledge of Good Pubs
Not just for mopping up after a hard day! Pitching in a story can be exhausting. You can follow all the rules in the book (don’t call on deadline, don’t start with ‘I’ve just sent you a press release’, make your pitch relevant…), but unless you’ve spent the time building relationships in the first place, you might as well bang your head against a brick wall. Take journalists out for a drink, listen to what they’re interested in, establish a relationship of trust and you will both reap the rewards.

A Mirror
No, not for checking your lippy! New business pitches and presentations can scare the bejeesus out of the most hardened professional. The only way I’ve ever found of settling those nerves is by practising my presentations religiously beforehand in front of a mirror. Actors do this, as do newsreaders – watch yourself present and ensure what you’re saying is compelling.

Maintain a Strategic Perspective
No matter how new you are to the job, keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Reactive opportunities are great, as long as they deliver on client objectives. Is that ad-hoc photo opp really going to enhance your campaign, or is it just an opportunity to take a silly picture and get more clippings? This is what really makes the difference with clients.

Your Own Media Relations Campaign
Women in the PR industry are pathologically bad at telling people about their achievements. Whether that’s the industry, clients or just your line manager. I don’t know why, but men seem to find this easier. That promotion you’re looking for? An extension of a client contract? Get better at presenting your work and the results it delivered and it will be an awful lot more likely to happen.

Know Your Employment Rights
Maternity, pension, pay, working hours…there’s a reason these things exist. Learn them and stick to them. Employers should be doing the same, but don’t just assume they are.

A Good Watch
PR agencies charge based on hours worked. As a result, time is a vital currency, so get good at it. Working all the hours God gives on an ongoing basis (though necessary at times) will label you more as a walkover than a hard worker. Similarly, if you’re not efficient at managing your time and the work you produce, you’ll impact the agency’s bottom line. Not a good career move.

A Board of Directors
The best advice anyone ever gave me about work was to build a Board of Directors in your head. This is a group of people who have your back and whose advice you can trust. This includes referees, strategists and consultants. People with influence who you can turn to when you need them. Build your virtual Board and let them help you.

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton

  • Anonymous

    Well said! I thought it was an extraordinary (in a bad way) article too.

  • Gemma Storey (@gemma_m_storey)

    Great post Emma.

    I think doing your own PR is so important; not just for your career, but also for how younger women see the role of women in PR.

  • carolemscott

    Is it just me or has the comments facility suddenly disappeared from the PR Daily blog. I just tried to upload a comment and can’t see any, whereas before there was a great long list.

  • carolemscott

    Ignore my last – glitch on my ‘puter.

    Here’s a few substitutions I have suggested:
    * Intelligence instead of nail polish;
    * Logic instead of heels;
    * Common sense instead of sticky notes; and
    * A thick skin instead of a black blazer

  • Emma Duke

    Thanks all, just hate the idea of any young women getting into PR labouring under misapprehensions of what the job is really like. I do feel a bit bad about the student who wrote the original post, but it doesn’t say a lot about the editorial standards at PR Daily…