So, What Do You Do?

Family events. High school reunions. Catching up with college friends. These are times that, in the post-graduate world, give many people (some who you probably haven’t seen in a while) the opportunity to ask you lots of questions. About everything. You know what I’m talking about? I thought so.

Now, being a recent college graduate with an exciting new career, I would expect to be asked plenty of questions about my job by those family members and friends who are interested in keeping up with my activities. I would obviously be prepared to answer their questions, but recently I got to thinking…do my family members even remotely, kinda-sorta understand what I do for a living?

So, I did an experiment. I emailed my mom, dad, grandmother and two younger brothers with the question of all questions: “What do you think I do at work?” And, even better, “What do you think public relations is?”

My parents had a solid understanding of my job (probably because I talk to them about it every day). They chalked it up to me spending my time promoting a company’s brand or image to the public and working with traditional and social media. They were also spot-on regarding how much of my time I spend writing.

One of my brothers – the one who bothered to respond (Thanks, Will!) – had more of a “Mad Men” view of what I do as a PR practitioner. He thinks that I work with various accounts to make sure they are all happy with their public image. Not bad!

My wonderful 91-year-old grandmother gave me some great insight, as well. She told me that her thoughts about what I do encompass many areas – computer skills, paperwork, sales, event planning, working with TV and radio, producing websites, writing and acting as “a connection between people and companies.” She even touched on the importance of brainstorming and research! On the surface level, she was 100 percent correct.

So, my immediate family has a decent grasp on what my job entails. However, what would I tell my extended family about the work that I, and my fellow PR professionals, do (and do well)? Would I leave it at the surface, the level that my parents and siblings know and understand? Or do I explain the importance of strategy and planning and the meticulous way we do research, develop tactics and follow up with the media?

It can be tough to explain our jobs in a way that everybody can fully grasp. The fact that we have clients from all industries, with varying goals and objectives, makes every work day different from the last. But to me, that’s what makes PR fun! So, do what you do best, and craft a little PR pitch to explain your work to everyone who stops you at your next class reunion or sits near you at family dinner. Let them know that what you do is important, and there’s no doubt that they will be impressed!