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I spent the extra couple days of the New Year’s weekend getting caught up on my magazine reading.  Some local stuff (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix) mindless stuff (Entertainment Weekly), some business stuff (Inc., Fast Company) and some stuff in-between (Oprah, More).

Flipping through the November issue of More (ok, I know I’m behind) I came across the article with the above title.  Of course, I was curious.  And lo and behold “public relations specialist” was one of the chosen careers. (Ironic when you consider how far behind I really am on this reading stuff).

Well, how about that?  The sidebar to the story says we’ll see a 24 percent industry growth rate by 2018 (great!), median salary was about $51,000(not bad) and we will see an increased need for social media and international relations (obviously right?). 

But, the story itself, made me cringe. 

“The profession is relatively barrier free for newcomers, since it doesn’t require a specialized degree.” Whoa… that might have been true at some point, but I can tell you, if you are applying for an entry-level position here and you don’t have a degree in some form of communications, I’m not likely to hire you.

“A communications, marketing or sales background is useful….” Useful? Not so interested in a sales background, but the other two are pretty much a requirement.

“If you’re passionate about your clients and their stories, the rest should fall into place.”  If it were only that easy.  Yes, you need to be passionate about the work you’re doing, but you definitely need a skill set to be successful in public relations – writing, strategic thinking, among others.

So back to the title of the article about “having a life.”  Quoting a PR consultant mentioned in the article, “…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.”

Hmm, yes, the faster we work the more time we have for other things.  But I don’t think our clients hire us to be fast. I hope they hire us to provide strong, strategic advice and counsel and to produce results that meet their important goals and objectives. 

Do I have a life?  Of course I do. I’m involved in a variety of different organizations, I spend quality time with family and friends, I get to travel; no complaints from me. And… I’m available to my clients when they need me.  I chose this career because it offered me an opportunity to do what I love.  It is part of my life, I don’t separate the two.

Oh, and the other careers?  Personal Financial Advisor, Pharmacist, Web Professional, Physical/Occupational Therapist, Medical Professional, Accountant, Writer, Management Analysis, and Social Worker.

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio


  1. Abbie – I think this seriously calls for a strongly-worded letter to the editor from ALL of the women in the Arizona PR community. Perhaps you can work with PRSA to make this happen as well as with the other states to do the same. Let’s show them how wrong they are. Who is with me?

    • Stephanie Lough says:

      Hear, hear! What a horrible article, down right insulting. It’s basically saying “anyone can do it!” I know plenty that have tried and failed, which is fine because they excel in other areas. Frankly, I don’t like the fact an article like this exists. Bit sexists, no? I’m surprised secretary and teacher weren’t included.

      As for the PR consultant quote – finish early so you have free time? Since when is PR a one and done? How about moving on to the next project? If you really, truly do have nothing left to do (which I don’t see how it is possible unless you’ve maxed the budget), you need more clients.

      If someone is choosing their career path based on how much free time they will have, they may need to reevaluate their priorities. Not saying everyone should have a 9-5 white collar job, but if your priorities are elsewhere, PR is not the job for you.

  2. And interesting to note the Ragan post from yesterday claiming PR is again ranked as one of the most stressful jobs.

    • Ha! I was actually going to comment that a recent study shows PR is ranked as one of the most stressful jobs. I don’t know about you, but when I started my career, I was REQUIRED to bill 40 hours a week and work another 20 on new business. Being type A, I actually billed 55-60 hours and worked another 20 on new business. I haven’t slowed down since then. I’m kind of shocked anyone would say having a career in PR means you have work/life balance.

      • Dana Hughens says:

        Gini, I’m with you. I don’t track my new biz and admin time as closely as I probably should now, but when I was with the international agency and entered it all, I rarely had less than a 80-hour or more week. I still work as much — sometimes in different ways as a business owner — because I love what I do. This is what I’ve selected, and at the same time, I believe it is a requirement to excel in this business.

        It is irresponsible to tell young professionals that a job in PR means a light schedule and that a particular skill set is not needed. I double majored in speech communications and journalism, with a minor in PR. I typically hire journalism majors. I have hired people with other degrees and would consider someone without a degree if the candidate has the right experience and skills. Candidates who say they think they will be good in PR because they like people, like planning parties (one thought the fact that she enjoyed planning her own wedding made her qualified) or were in a sorority/fraternity, do not understand what public relations is.

      • LIke most kids, I had retail jobs until after graduation. I remember when I landed my first PR job telling my folks how excited I was…no more nights and weekends.With a “real” job I would never to worrry about staying late, coming in early, working weekends. That happened on my first day….and that may have been the last time. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Lough says:

    Stressful? Lots of free time? Can the media make up their mind and tell me how I am supposed to feel about my job???

    • Dana Hughens says:

      This made me laugh, and I agree with this, too. I think that most members of the media would argue that there is a specific skillset for PR pros, and that they would like the folks pitching them to be as educated and experienced as possible. That’s how we use our free time! We read, we study, we try it again.

  4. Kris Baxter-Ging says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Okay, I’m done laughing now.
    Great post, Abbie. I don’t know anyone working full time in the business who isn’t on call (if for nothing else than social media) and who doesn’t work some evenings and weekends on a fairly regular basis.
    Perhaps a flexible schedule is a bonus of working in PR, but it’s more often a result of squeezing our time off in where we can between projects.
    A college degree is just the starting point for learning in this industry, as change happens nearly daily in terms of technology and media options.
    Like Abbie, my job is a love of mine and I have found ways to weave my passion for my profession into my whole life so that the events and needs don’t overwhelm me but rather, give me energy for the next opportunity.

  5. Alison Bailin says:

    Some AWESOME conversation about this on Facebook I must share…

    Stacey Wacknov I think the key word there is *require*. I’m an English major with a secondary education certificate and a masters in library and information science. PR didn’t even hit my radar until I left undergrad, found myself in NYC by chance, and a friend said, “Hey — here’s a job you can do until you figure things out.”

    Now granted, that was in 1996. But most of the folks I work with to this day — including junior staff — are not PR majors. And I think that brings broader thinking and more talent to the pool. Especially in healthcare where we need science folks.

    Caitie Quick My eyes can’t stop rolling. I’m with you, Alison.

    Stacey Wacknov I think there are other reasons to be angry with this article. Such as assuming you get a life if you work in PR. The hardest working people I know are in PR, with 60-80 hour weeks, constantly on call. Not long ago, PR was dubbed one of the most stressful jobs, just behind surgeon and police officer. How that meshes with “great careers for women who want a life” is beyond me.

    Stephanie Lough My rage is posted in the blog comments. Stacey, I think it is insulting to say “no specialized degree is required” because it implies, in my opinion, “no specialized talent is required” . It’s true that a variety gives a team a broader talent pool, but when it comes down to it, Pr pros need to be able to WRITE. There are A LOT of degrees that do not require a person to write very much (like how journalism students are not required to take an upper division math course). I’ve had friends ask me to help them get a job in PR and when I tell them the majority of my job is spent on Microsoft Word, they are immediately turned off. The article feeds the misconception that PR is just parties and schmoozing.

    Stacey Wacknov Steph: I agree with you on the parties/schmoozing angst (thanks for that, MTV). But there are many degrees that will prepare someone to go into PR. So much of it is having the personal knack for communication. And, yes, an ability to write.

    I came up in a place/era where specific PR degrees were few and far between. You learned on the job, usually by fire. Specific degrees seem to matter more out here, perhaps because of ASU’s program.

    When I look at entry-level candidates, I really don’t care about their major. What I do care about is how they present themselves and their writing skills. I want to see that they think around problems and know how to do PR for themselves. And if they’ve had internships, how do they frame that experience? That’s much more critical to future success. The kids who think it’s all fun and parties generally don’t last anyway.

    Alison Bailin Batz Stacey – thanks for saving my window and keyboard from being destroyed. Talked me off of the ledge. 🙂

    Abbie S. Fink I cringed at “barrier free” and “doesn’t require a specialized degree.” Stacey is right, lots of folks started in the business with degrees from other disciplines. PR wasn’t a major when I graduated either – mine is in journalism. My issue was the implied interpretation here that anybody can do it and if you work really fast, you can have a bunch a free time.

    Charlotte Risch Shaff Free time?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha…You aren’t doing your job right or don’t have enough responsibilities…IMO

    Stephanie Riel I haven’t read the article, but the title and conversation here was enough to raise my eyebrows. Thanks to you all for putting it all back into perspective. PR does require a specific skill set and degree. Personally I have a journalism and business degree from Cronkite, but often wish I would have focused on PR instead of print journalism, (since PR/Marketing/Social Media is where my passion lies) We all know that PR pros work hard. The “having a life” / “free time” part humors me, though as most PR peeps I know are very busy, (and skilled and educated folks) who are excellent at multi-tasking to cater to our clients and work in some time for ourselves too. I agree with Charlotte Risch Shaff that you are’t doing your job right if you have “free time”! From the sounds of it, the original Magazine article failed to recognize the true qualities of the profession. I would happily help in the outreach to Cronkite/ letter to the editor, if you choose to do so. Let me know!

    Stephanie Riel ‎*degree from Cronkite and WP Carey – sorry I didn’t finish my thought!

    Stacey Wacknov Re: having a life…my job is so glam that I’m still sitting here in my PJs, having worked literally from the moment I woke up. Somehow, I grabbed an apple at some point. Considering lunch now. Maybe. We’ll see how it goes.

    Charlotte Risch Shaff I’m with ya on the glam, Stacey! Sweatpants, no shower and just had toast with peanut butter.

    Paula Hubbs Cohen I’ll call you a toast and PB and raise you the bowl of Rice Krispies I had at my desk :O)

    Morgan Bullard Vanderwall Welp, I had totally forgot to eat today until I read this, and I’m with you girls. Still no shower. Maybe I should ring my butler? 🙂

    Morgan Bullard Vanderwall PS – found this a few weeks ago on Pinterest and I’m getting it printed for my office. 🙂

  6. Alicia Wadas says:

    It’s sad that the reporter has such an uninformed view of a public relations professional’s credentials and work. How did this story make it past the editor’s desk? In some respects I think that because PR professionals are usually behind the story and not in the story that it’s understandable why people don’t know what we do. I think those of us who have chosen this career have done so for the challenge of guiding companies through both growth and difficult times. We haven’t selected it for lifestyle. We work hard and then we make time for our families and personal pursuits. No different than any other worthwhile profession. And we are highly qualified, skilled and trained. Sure, we have a passion for doing great work for our clients, but passion alone is worthless. We need to offer substance, strategy and RESULTS. And, a PR pro knows how to put a sentence together and define a paragraph. Most PR firms I know test the applicants for writing skills. I don’t know a single PR pro that only graduated high school or has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in anything unrelated to writing, journalism, communication – and that just gets you in the door as a coordinator. The PR pros I know are smart, articulate, strategic, and will work from sun up to long past sun down to produce for their clients. I’d suggest we mount a PR awareness campaign but frankly, I’d rather allocate my time and attention to my clients who deserve my A-game, no matter the time of day or night.

  7. Andrea Meyer says:

    Well, there is so much here to respond to (both the article itself and the comments), I am not sure where to begin. The writer obviously has a dim view of PR folks and I think we all know that there is a range of talent out there. Unfortunately, the lesser professionals get more attention than those who are more accomplished. If you think about stories that made news, it tended to be where PR people pitched badly or were caught in a compromising position (example: Facebook and Burson-Marsteller).

    I had a sociology degree and I do not think that has ever been an issue. To Stacey’s point above, it is more about one’s communication/writing skills than the degree. But, frankly, I think that the job experience is where one determines ability or fit for the career. Especially when faced with a crisis, one cannot learn how to adapt and respond in a classroom. There are so many variables in a corporate environment–competitors, customers, government, media–that combine to create unique situations that could simply not be anticipated.

    On the topic of work/life balance this will also vary by industry, agency, etc. Being fast simply does not automatically mean one can go home and kick back. In fact, I will submit that I have had to stay in the office late to respond to a reporter on deadline–that had little to do with my ability to be quick and more to do with gathering information from multiple sources and/or getting an executive to get on the phone. If you happen to be lucky enough to work someplace with an active legal department you can add that time into the approval process for issuing releases, statements, etc.

    I’m on a roll now….I have experience in multiple industries, both on the agency and corporate sides of the business. We need to work with all sorts of people and be story tellers to a variety of audiences. Interpersonal skills and the ability to learn about new products, etc. all play into one’s likelihood to be successful. Providing strategic advice and preparing for questions (by analysts, consumers, or media) is also essential. There is no one-size-fits-all job description, nor is there one, basic profile of the right candidate. But I guess this article filled the need the writer had to make a list because that was the assignment.

    • Andrea– couldn’t agree more. All of us can a time (or two or twelve) that we had keys in hand, were locking up the office when the call came in…reporter on deadline, client needs a report in the morning, something. So much for that evening’s plans.

      We have chosen this career because we love what we do and sometimes that means long hours, weekends and time away from our “life.” But I wouldn’t trade this life…

  8. Mary Barber says:

    You ladies have already talked about the coincidence of Abbie’s post appearing the same week public relations is again named one of the most stressful careers. Ironic, I think. Personally, after a “hair on fire” (as a friend calls it) week, I have to agree with the stress folks. You can have a life in public relations…as long as that life has a lot of stress most weeks.

    These kinds of articles really frost me not so much because of the title but because of the picture of ease and simplicity they portray. It sure would be nice if I could get my job done sitting on the beach sipping na umbrella drink but the reality is we barely have time to do that when we plan it. Fe realize/understand/accept/have a grip on the strategic thinking and thought that goes into a smart and effective public relations program. I’m assuming the author of this article just thinks we do some cute little tweets, call a reporter and head to the beach. Oh how I wish it was so (some days). It’s yet another reason we need to continue to demonstrate the research and strategy that goes into the successful programs we do.

    I do believe it’s important to have an open mind on the hiring front though. Having a degree in the field, involvement in PRSSA, etc., is a great step and I encourage students to get those degrees but it should definitely not be the only degrees we’re looking at. I have a liberal arts degree with a major in English. The writing and critical thinking skills I learned in school have been as (and in some cases I believe more) valuable than those of many fresh graduates I see today. So, I hope your HR departments aren’t writing these young people off because they dont’ fit the education box you have. They might need a bit more training in the tactical areas but in the long run you’ll be happier with their quick thinking ability.

    And, with that…I’m back to work because I’m really stressed over the deadlines looming early next week. No rest for this PR pro…yet.

    • Mary – when I review resumes, I take into consideration a variety of factors…degree, previous job experience, other activities. What got me in this article was the “barrier free” reference – indicating to anyone that read the article that it is an easy job to get.

  9. Mark Roden says:

    I’m not sure why Abbie’s comments – and the resulting wave of support – made me smile so much.

    It could be because I work in an industry (food service) where just the opposite happens – everyone tells prospective college graduates that a career in our industry is a token job, fraught with long hours and dead end work that is demeaning and dirty.

    Perhaps its because Congress uses “burger flippers” as an example of something that’s not a REAL job, something that shouldn’t be supported nor taken seriously. When the health care laws were being debated, one Arizona congressman was hosting a Town Hall back home and said to an owner (not me, not my brand) of many franchised restaurants that he should support the legislation because “it doesn’t even affect you – it only affects companies that hire full time employees”.

    Yeah, he really said that.

    But I guess the funniest part of all is when you ask “how could that story get past an editor’s desk?”

    It got past it because…well, because a good PR person told them it was worthy to print..

    Isn’t that what you guys do every day? 🙂

    • Mark — thanks for your comments. I’d like to check back and see what career path that particular member of Congress took to get to the position he currently has. I’d guess “burger flipper” appears somewhere on his resume.

      Yes, public relations professionals each and every day are doing our best to get our clients’ stories told. But my hope is that the BEST in the business know when to tell their client (or organization) no, the story isn’t newsworthy.

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