When I graduated from college, I could have sworn I wanted to go into public relations. I had interned at Shank Public Relations my final semester of college and got to work on a lot of great accounts, including the city’s public school administration efforts and several programs for Eli Lilly. I realized that I had a knack for writing, writing quickly and being able to find the angle in the story. Little did I realize that without any solid emotional hook, the best press release still goes in the trash.
Before I graduated, I was hired by an advertising and public relations agency in Indianapolis and worked as a public relations coordinator on the McDonald’s of Central Indiana account (doesn’t everyone who has ever worked at an agency get to say this?). Soon, though, I saw how PR was not only about writing, how agency life was about doing everything both in and out of your job description, and that public relations was really just a different type of sales job. The last part is what bothered me most – I have no skills for sales because I have no use for bullshit. I don’t like to be sold and therefore I cannot try to sell someone else on something they don’t want or care about.
I slowly realized this when trying to pitch a new apple & walnut salad or the new spicy chicken sandwich. New menu options is not news. However, you could never tell a client that. They want coverage. Today I’d say, “Spend your money then on more ad buys.” However, being young and inexperienced, I diligently wrote my press releases, sent out my “Be Our Guest” coupons to the media contacts, drove around for radio station drop-offs and samplers, setup and managed our street team events that utilized a Volkswagen bug wrapped in the correlating ad artwork and prayed for the best.
However, I realized that it’s just not my shtick. I will say that the work that I did enjoy pitching did have to do with the more philanthropic endeavors for McDonald’s, including the Black History Maker’s of Tomorrow program in Indianapolis and the McTeacher’s Grants that we awarded to teachers around Central Indiana. The latter included a lot of local press coordination, especially because I would go out to each school with the local McDonald’s owner/operator and present one of those giant foam core checks. Another great program was one of the Indianapolis’ owner/operator holiday celebration called McMiracle on 38th Street that gave out donated coats, toys, and other items to children within the impoverished Indianapolis communities. (Samples of all of this coming – you’ll find it hard to believe but it’s all still paper copies I’ve saved.)
In a way, I do some PR today but on a much higher level. Since I oversee our social programs and advice our social PR outreach. I’m pretty aligned to PR as the person who has to flag and escalate both the good and bad things I see streaming across my laptop screen. I get to be the person who has my ear to the ground and funnel up issues that should be dealt with or handled.