Getting to grips with PR

Reputation management may fall to the PR team to handle, but that doesn’t mean PAs can’t help drum up good publicity, says Jane Rogers.

What does public relations mean to you? Do images of conniving spin doctors, like Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It spring to mind, or celebs who’ll do anything for publicity?

Or perhaps you imagine flamboyant characters like Eddy in Absolutely Fabulous, or even real-life PRs like Alistair Campbell or Max Clifford?

The chances are, when you don’t work in PR, you’ll think we spend our

time quaffing champagne, lunching with journalists or planning outrageous publicity stunts. Thankfully, from my 17+ years in PR, I can confirm that the reality isn’t like that.

What is PR?
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the leading representative body for the PR industry in Europe, says:

“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

In a nutshell, PR is raising your company’s profile by managing its reputation and building relationships with the key people interested in your business.

While PR is about managing publicity, it’s not about doing so with underhand tactics. Those of us who are members of a professional body, such as the CIPR, subscribe to a strict code of ethics.*

Why do I need to be concerned?
PR isn’t just the domain of PR departments; we are all responsible for it. The way you answer the phone, speak, dress or behave in public is part of your personal PR. This personal behaviour carries through to your work and becomes part of your employer’s PR.

Good PR is ever-more important in our online, 24/7, always-on world.
If you’re active on social media or regularly go networking, you don’t want to misrepresent your company or the wider industry you work in. Equally as a PA, looking after your boss includes helping them raise their own profile.

How can a PA help with PR?
Support your boss and the wider company to maintain good PR by:

Knowing the PR team – having a great relationship with those responsible for PR in your company will pay dividends for you and your boss. You’ll know what they’re looking for and can help them by providing it.

Providing content – the PR team will always be looking for great content – stories, research, tips, opinions and case studies. Give them a good supply and this will help raise your boss’s profile as well as the company’s.

Understanding tight deadlines – journalists work to very tight deadlines, so don’t be surprised if the PR team need a very speedy response. If you can respond quickly, they’re more likely to keep coming back to you.

Knowing company policies – if you, or your boss, get the opportunity to be interviewed or write articles, check what you’re allowed to say.
Keep abreast of the policies, so you don’t contravene them and risk the company’s reputation.

* The CIPR’s code of conduct:


Jane Rogers is a London-based PR consultant, helping business and education-sector clients raise their profile and manage their reputation since 1999