The Hardest Thing In PR Is Describing Your Job To Others

September 20, 2013

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I have worked at Fast Horse for over three years now and yet I still struggle to describe my job in a clear and concise manner whenever someone asks. It doesn’t help that my wife has a job most are familiar with, yet people become completely unglued when she describes it.

Together, we have repeated this scene more times than I can count:

[AT A WEDDING RECEPTION SEATED WITH A YOUNGER COUPLE. A CASUAL CONVERSATION STARTS WITH CAREER-RELATED BANTER.]

Well-meaning guy: “So, Andrew, what is it you do for a living?”

Me: “Oh, well, I’m a client relationship manager at Fast Horse, which is an integrated consumer marketing agency. We do everything from media relations, content marketing and social media marketing to branding, positioning, web development and even spokesperson management. I do a little of everything.”

[WELL-MEANING GUY TURNS TO HIS WELL-MEANING GAL AS IF TO FIND OUT WHETHER SHE MIGHT HAVE CONVERSATIONAL GRASP OF MANDARIN CHINESE; THE SAME QUESTION IS REPEATED TO MY WIFE.]

Well-meaning guy: “And what is it you do, Beth?”

My wife: “I work at a funeral home.”

Well-meaning guy: “OH MY GOD! PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER DONE SINCE THE MOMENT YOU WERE HIRED. TELL ME ALL OF THE WAYS YOU WORK WITH DEAD PEOPLE! JUST TALK UNTIL FOREVER PLEASE.”

Well-meaning wife: “THAT IS SO WEIRD! I KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIED. DID YOU EVER HAVE SOMEONE NAMED…”

Well-meaning husband: “HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED A SHOW CALLED ‘SIX FEET UNDER’ BEFORE?!”

It’s hard to say who has it worse: Me, the one who works in a discipline few outsiders really understand, or my wife, who works in a discipline many feel they understand with profound depth.

I find it quite ironic, given the nature of what I do, that explaining my job is so challenging. But it turns out I’m not the only one who struggles to articulate this batty occupation.

Earlier this month, LinkedIn released results from a survey of thousands of parents to working adults that found public relations to be the seventh most misunderstood job there is, trailing only UI designer, data scientist, social media manager, actuary, sociologist and sub editor.

Business Insider offered up this parent-friendly description of PR: “You make your clients look good by coordinating interviews and providing information about them to the media.” It’s a palatable summary, I guess. But that’s like saying a professional basketball player dribbles a basketball or a congressional member goes to meetings — that’s really just a fraction of the job.

For those of you who work in PR/marketing, I have to ask because my wife and I are headed to a wedding tonight, and I can’t let her defend the Most Interesting Occupation title yet again. How do you best describe the breadth of work you perform in this profession?