08 May What Being Editor-in-Chief of a Satire Newspaper Taught Me About PR
By Emily Moore
I never expected my stint as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Michigan’s satire newspaper, The Every Three Weekly, to lead to a PR gig after college—in fact, I had heard it could pose a liability when it came to the job search—but nevertheless, here I am. And while I may not have majored in communications, business or public relations, I felt surprisingly qualified to apply for a PR position by the end of my college career. It turns out that much of the experience I gained from my tenure as a (wannabe) comedy expert translated well to the public relations industry. This included learning valuable lessons such as…
Be Prepared to Do All the Things
If you’re a staff member on the type of humor publication that I was—a small, close-knit organization where people openly laugh when new writers ask if they get paid—limited staff numbers and budget constraints necessitate wearing many different hats. Writing, editing, coaching, distributing and designing the paper were just some of the many tasks I had to juggle to ensure success. While 20-person staffs and shoestring budgets may not be the norm at PR agencies, the dynamic nature of public relations means you’ll have to pitch, write, schedule events and hold press releases, sometimes at the same time. But the good news is, you’ll become an expert multi-tasker; and moreover, it’ll ensure that your typical workday never gets too repetitive.
It’s All About the Audience
While it’s nice to take pride in your own work for a comedy publication—and believe me, no one laughed harder at my own jokes than me—you can’t write for an audience of one. Doing so is a sure-fire way to ensure that you’ll be forced to hand all 8,000copies of the latest issue to your parents, friends and anyone else who both loves and pities you. Likewise, failing to understand your target PR audience amounts to little more than shouting in an empty room. Taking the time to research your client’s ideal readers and identifying their unique needs and wants before you generate content is the only way you can hope to achieve success.
Use Humor, But Be Smart
Comedy, in its nature, involves taking risks, pushing boundaries and inverting expectations. At my college’s humor publication, we delighted in pushing the envelope—in challenging others to see the absurd in everyday life. But there were always certain subjects we avoided entirely to avoid any potential offense; after all, the whole purpose of our organization was to make people laugh, not to upset them. In the PR world in particular, there’s a fine line between humor and poor taste, and you have to make sure you don’t inadvertently cross it. Everyone wants to be a Denny’s, but not at the risk of becoming a Kenneth Cole.
Throw Shame Out the Window
As Michael Scott once said that Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Sometimes the headlines staff members (myself included) pitched would absolutely flop. But guess what? No one is going to remember your bad joke except you. What they will remember is the great idea that you eventually come up with if you keep taking risks—the totally out-there, hilarious angle that resulted in a front-page article. In public relations, there are no bad ideas in the brainstorming phase—if your idea is impractical or doesn’t fit in with your message, your team members will tell you. But if you keep thinking outside of the box and aren’t afraid to speak up about your ideas, you might just end up with the nextgreat campaign.
So even if you ruled out LaunchSquad because you didn’t major in business or communications, don’t worry; sometimes, the most unexpected skills and experiences turn out to be the most helpful. Oh, and Onion editors, if you’re ever looking for a job—you know who to call.
Image c/o downtownhouston.org