08/28/2012 06:46 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2012

Public Relations is Not a Walk in the Park... Or a Kayaking Trip

A response to a MORE Magazine article called "10 Great Careers for Women Who Want a Life"

Yesterday, my fellow Huffington Post contributor and public relations professional Joelle Caputa shared an article on Facebook that she read on MORE Magazine's website called "10 Great Careers for Women Who Want a Life." One of the ten careers listed in this article was my field of choice, public relations (also known as PR). While I was happy to see PR getting exposure as a great career, I did not agree with the article's assertion that PR is suitable for people who want to have a strong work/life balance.

To make matters worse, upon reading further, I discovered a profile that outlined what women could expect from a career in PR and why it was included on the list of the best careers for "women who want a life." While I found the initial list misleading, the PR profile was downright insulting. It provides a completely unrealistic testimonial from a supposed PR professional who schedules her workweek around hikes and water kayaking trips. She says: "I do schedule 40 hours of work each week, but I'm hired for the results I produce. If I produce those results quickly, I work less. I have complete freedom in terms of how I use my time." She continues to say: "If you're passionate about your clients and their stories, the rest should fall into place."

Speaking on behalf of the entire PR industry, "we object"!

Public relations is a fantastic career. It's exciting, fast-paced and challenging. But it has also been listed as one of the most stressful jobs by numerous sources many years in a row, and is notorious for being an all-consuming, never-ending job. In PR, you can't expect to walk into the office every day at 9am and leave promptly at 5pm. In fact, most PR pros will be lucky to leave by 7 or 8pm, especially working in an agency environment. While you may not technically work 24/7, PR professionals don't have real weekends, holidays or days off because you are always expected to be available to the media. So in short, not a great career for people "who want a life" outside of their clients, press releases and journalists.

Beyond the blatant untruths included in the profile, I object to the fact that PR as an industry is diminished by the article and profile. Even though PR has evolved greatly since the industry's early days when PR people were considered "spin doctors" and despite PR professionals attempts to educate the business world about what the industry really is/does, PR is still a relatively unknown industry - and therefore, still has relatively low perceived value.

In fact, the majority of the business world has misconceptions about public relations' role in the marketing cycle. As the owner of a PR firm who works primarily with start-ups, one of the most important parts of my day-to-day work is educating my clients (and potential clients) as to what they can - and cannot expect - from PR:

  • PR will help a company to create a brand and raise awareness of its products/services, but it will not replace a proper sales strategy.
  • PR is not advertising; you cannot guarantee placements or completely control the messaging that is included in a story.
  • PR is a great deal more credible than advertising, as it is considered a third party endorsement from a publication or journalist that the audience trusts.
  • PR is not something that the average business owner should handle in-house because it does require training, established relationships with the media and a HUGE time investment.

The MORE Magazine profile reinforces the negative stereotypes that people have about public relations: "The profession is relatively barrier free for newcomers, since it doesn't require a specialized degree. A communications, marketing or sales background is useful, as are Web expertise and language skills..."

While it may be true that 1 in 1,000 companies will hire a PR person based upon personality and salesmanship alone, it's very rare. The majority of PR people are trained on the basics of the job - writing PR materials, creating newsworthy stories, learning the news cycle, strategy development, media relations tactics, key message development, social media marketing, copywriting, brand development, etc. - through Public Relations, Communications or Marketing degrees or have come from a professional background in journalism.

And the competition is just going to get more difficult over time. Employment opportunities in public relations are expected to increase faster than other professions through 2018, but statistics show that there are more candidates graduating from university/college in the field than entry-level positions available.

Unlike the PR professional's claim in the MORE Magazine profile, passion does NOT equate to results when it comes to PR. Passion is useless if not combined with in-depth knowledge about your client's industry, good writing/communication skills, strong strategic thinking and, at minimum, a basic understanding of the news cycle and how journalists do their job. We aren't called PR professionals for nothing!

While the journalists at MORE Magazine probably aren't familiar with the in's and out's of a career in PR, the writer of this story should not have trusted the word of a PR person, who in her own words, says that she doesn't work 40 hours a week if she can get away with it.

So readers of MORE Magazine, take note: if you're basing your decision to start a career in PR on the idea that you can go on hiking and water rafting trips rather than working your 50+ hours a week, you will be sorely disappointed. I won't say "I told you so"... but I did, in fact, tell you so.