A Day in the Life of PR and Corporate Communications Pros

WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?

Ask this of anyone who works in public relations or corporate communications and you will probably find they are too busy to talk about it.

As an experiment, I checked in all day long with a small group of willing participants in my network to see what they were working on. Most journalists would assume we spend all of our time pitching media, but in my experiment, this just wasn’t the case. Today’s communicators are integral to a broad range of corporate activities.

Here is what I learned:

Many PRs are early risers: a habit made necessary by the unknowns of the day ahead and the sheer volume of tasks on the to-do list. If one is to achieve any sort of work-life balance, the life part is often crammed into the cracks— often found in the earliest and latest hours of the day.

 
4:30am John Kageorge begins his day emailing with a client in China to coordinate an upcoming film shoot.
5:00am  
5:30am An hour later, John is prepping social media content for his clients’ five feeds.
6:00am Kelly Olive is up and checking email before heading to the gym for a pre-work workout. John gets his three kids ready for school. Laurie Smith alternates between email and preparing her daughters’ lunches.
7:00am Colin Nekolaichuk reads his email before he makes his breakfast.
8:00am Amanda Laird leaves for the office.
8:30am John is prepping a client for a live TV interview. Amanda is clearing the decks for a morning dedicated to writing blog posts. This involves reviewing her social media monitoring platform for any blossoming issues and checking engagement stats from yesterday’s blog post.
 

No matter how differently our days play out, for most PR professionals mornings begin the same way: with coffee. It is an essential boost required to accelerate the mind and prepare the body for the jump onto the moving train that is already today.

Communications professionals spend a lot of time online reading news, or absorbing news by osmosis through office chatter and social media exposure. They are well aware that experts say pre-work email-reading is the worst thing anyone can do for their health and productivity. This information is taken under advisement but largely ignored, for communications professionals do not like surprises. It is better for their health to be informed and informed early than to be thrust unprepared into the day.

Professional communicators are usually expected to be at the office during the 9-5 business day, unless traveling for business. Working from home is widely practiced but only before and after office hours. For those with long commutes, the trip is often spent reading or listening to news, or joining conference calls from the car.

 
9:00am Kelly is in her first client meeting of the day to review status on several concurrent projects. Laurie steps off the elevator into an impromptu hallway meeting about a process to track leads from a landing page on a partner website. By time she reaches her desk, her scheduled social media time has dwindled by half, narrowing the window to fill her feeds with shareable content.
9:30am John is getting ready for a new client meeting several hours away by car. He’ll be on the road until lunchtime. He will probably eat in his car.
10:00am Colin is writing a media pitch that connects a recent EDC report with a client’s upcoming conference on SMB expansion into the USA. It’s complicated, and he collaborates with the account team to get it right. Kelly is trying to find time to pull metrics from a blogger and Twitter campaign between meetings.
10:30am Amanda submits a press release draft into the approvals process. Laurie is working on an article while accepting a steady flow of walk-in traffic to her office; people asking for input on projects underway throughout the organization.
11:00am Kelly is presenting a communications plan to her client for a “super-confidential” project. It’s been weeks in the works and she’s nervous and eager to show it off. She was hoping to meet a friend for a quick coffee afterward but that person, also a PR professional, canceled to take a call with a writer about an upcoming assignment. They pledge to try again another day.
11:30am Amanda is on the phone with her marketing automation agency to discuss content required for an upcoming project. During the call, she finds herself multi-tasking to answer an urgent email from the graphic artist about the sales enablement templates.
 

This is about the right time for another coffee, most PR people would agree. It may also involve a high-glycemic, carbohydrate laden snack, eaten at their desk.

In many companies, the corporate communications function is the hub for work that other departments aren’t sure how to manage on their own. Human Resources needs images for its LinkedIn page. Operations needs help orchestrating a move to a new office location. Sales wants to sponsor a table at a charitable event supported by important prospects. A Twitter account password is forgotten. An in-house corp comms professional is often the grease that keeps internal projects turning smoothly to the finish by bringing the right people together from within marketing, sales, ops or technology. They may provide artwork or copywriting, or identify gaps in new processes by seeking to understand them in order to write the corresponding content.

 
12:00pm Laurie is coordinating with the events manager on the page layout for an invitation to a companyhosted networking event.
1:00pm Amanda is editing a four-page document outlining all the details for her company’s move to a new location. It’s dense and long but necessary, and the challenge is to present all the information clearly and succinctly enough that her internal audience reads it all the way through.
1:20pm John is watching and evaluating his client on a TV panel interview.
1:30pm Laurie is catching up on the email that has come in during this morning’s meetings. John calls his client to provide initial feedback on the TV appearance.
2:00pm Colin is in another client meeting. John joins an organizing call with his client in China.
2:15pm Laurie and the events manager are discussing the requirements of a speaker prep call for an upcoming thought leadership breakfast.
2:30pm Amanda is building out the editorial calendar for the next quarter by assigning customer personas to scheduled blog posts and ensuring there is enough content to power biweekly newsletters.
3:00pm Kelly is leading a monthly status call with a global client. John posts the TV interview on YouTube.
4:00pm Kelly heads into focus group meetings. John pauses work mode to shuttle his children to after-school activities and prepare dinner.
5:00pm Laurie starts closing open tabs, finishing edits to a press release and responding to “by end of day” emails before leaving.
6:00pm Amanda makes an early exit; she usually leaves after 7:30.
6:30pm Colin packs up for home.
9:00pm John opens his laptop to finish remaining client issues from the day
10:00pm Laurie is back online to work on her article and to prep for a media interview first thing in the morning. Kelly’s focus groups finally wrap up and she heads home.
10:30pm Amanda checks her social media properties one last time.
 

A note here about lunch: If a PR pro eats lunch at all, it is usually consumed at one’s desk.

More coffee may be required here to help surge through the last hours of the day.

In PR today, knowledge of marketing automation platforms and content marketing practices is just as important as knowing how to pitch and secure earned media through traditional media relations efforts. The Corp Comms team owns their organization’s story and they can write, so they often take on a large portion of responsibility for “feeding the content machine.” But writing is one of the most challenging crafts and it takes time to do properly. Most PR professionals have several documents open in tabs that they try to work on throughout the day and between meetings and phone calls.

So, why bring this level of energy and dedication to their jobs, while trying to make a day last more than 24 hours? Professional communicators have a passion for connecting and sharing stories. They love being the protectors of brand reputation, making their company or clients’ programs shine and bringing messages to new audiences in today’s complex mediaverse. And while you may hear the occasional complaint about long days (and nights!), most PR pros love what they do.

What could be a part of tomorrow?

6:40 am Monitoring the tone of a social media conversation
8:00 am Attending a breakfast panel on mobile advertising
9:30 am Onboarding a new team member
10:00 am Media training for a freshly promoted executive
11:00 am Responding to a blog post on an industry trend
11:15 am Revising a presentation to win a new client
11:30 am Picking a sick child up from school while holding a conference call
12:30 pm Updating a communications strategy doc after the product launch is delayed
1:00 pm Scheduling additional interviews after a TV appearance
1:45 pm Running a session with sales team-members on social media best practices
2:00 pm Updating the editorial calendar—again
2:45 pm Completing an award submission for an industry event
3:30 pm Canceling the coffee meeting for the second time
4:10 pm Soothing a customer who found the PR team through the “Media Inquiries” inbox
5:30 pm Catching a flight to attend an event promoting a new partnership
6:20 pm Joining networking drinks at a local pub
9:00 pm Logging in to test an upgrade to the company website
10:30 pm Pulling together quarterly results presentation for stakeholders

ABOUT THE EXPERT: LAURIE SMITH

As CNW’s Senior Director, Strategic Communications, Media and Audience Relations, Laurie is responsible for internal, external and social communications, content development and for partnerships and connections with Canadian media, bloggers and influencers. Follow her @lauriesmith

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