In case you don’t know, I’ve been working at a performing arts PR firm in the Bay Area for about a month now. PR isn’t my background, but I had experience in writing and theatre so I jumped right into this field that was entirely new to me. As with any “first real job”, there is a steep learning curve. It’s fun and frustrating and stressful and rewarding. There’s a lot of writing, which I love, and a lot of emails, which I’m learning to embrace. (It helps if I just pretend I’m a high powered exec.) Here’s a little of what I’ve learned so far.
1. People are nicer than you expect. Reporters aren’t ignoring your emails for kicks, they just get so many. Be courteous, concise, and persistent, and soon enough you will get a response (even if its a polite “no promises”).
2. In that same vein, know who you’re pitching–dance editors might appreciate a story about the next great choreographer, but will roll their eyes at an email about a rock concert. Be careful to take note of different writer’s personalities; for example who needs to be sent a nudge email every two days and who prefers a phone call.
3. You will make mistakes. Mistakes that feel big and messy and embarrassing. Usually, they aren’t as bad as they seem. If you keep clear, open communication with the people you work with, it will be a lot easier to navigate snafus. Try to avoid it, but literally everyone has sent an email to “Mike” with the salutation “Dear Joe.” You will survive.
4. The names and papers and event openings seem overwhelming–and they can be. Write everything down, and soon enough you’ll find you’ll be able to recall names, dates, and favorite restaurants at the drop of a hat.
5. There is something deeply satisfying about writing PSAs. That short, concise ad copy is soothing. Don’t question it.
6. When you are writing press releases and pitching clients, you will become obsessed with the subject no matter how far it is from your typical interests. 17th century Italian opera might not be your cup of tea, but if you spend hours researching it you might find its your new favorite type of music. At least until opening.
7. There will be days when every word of copy you write sounds wrong, your clients aren’t selling tickets, or you receive radio silence from media. Those days are hard. You will push past them.
8. You’ll forget it’s still September because you are constantly operating in the future. And have miniature panic attacks until you realize October 1 is still two weeks away (only two weeks!!)
9. Color-coding is king. One pink highlighter to rule them all.
10. After all those hours of constant emails, scheduling interviews, crafting releases, making press kits, and schmoozing reporters, there’s nothing quite like seeing your story in print. Even if its not the client you’re directly working with, because you are part of a team now. My dad clipped a newspaper for me the other day because he thought a show looked cool. I grinned and said “Yeah, that’s us.”