Thinking About a Career in Beauty PR? Think again…

My good friend Maria (@MsDriftedSW) suggested that I write this post, as we all know that a lot of beauty bloggers dream about careers in beauty PR. There seems to be an illusion that PR is a glamorous job, fair enough I might not be an expert, but from my experience this is so not true. So I’m going to ‘dispel some myths’ as @24HourPrettyPeople suggested.

I have worked with PRs and as a PR so I can give a view from both sides of the fence, of course, these are my opinions and thoughts so naturally not the be all and end all of working in PR. But, lots of people wanted to read my thoughts written down. So here are a few things that I think everyone thinking about a career in PR should think about before taking it further.

I also want to make it clear, that this is not a dig at people who do work in PR or people who want to, it’s an incredibly difficult job and I have a lot of respect for people who work in the industry, I just feel that there are lot of illusions about what the job is about. Maybe, this post will give you a new respect for those working in PR?

I’m going to lay it out with the general ideas that people have about PR, followed by my take on the reality of it all.

If I work for a Beauty PR I will get loads of free stuff!

Yes, there are some freebies knocking around, but I wouldn’t say it’s loads at all. You have to remember that all PRs are working to a budget and only have a set amount of samples that they can allocate. You might get some of these freebies, but chances are that you are more likely to need them for the press. Some brands will be nice enough to give you a freebie to try to improve your knowledge, but in my experience, it’s not part of the job.

I’ll get to mix with celebrities and top journalists, how cool is that?

Yes you probably will, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Chances are you are not important enough for that VIP to want to associate with you much. You will be giving them facts, freebies, drinks and snacks and then taking their rubbish and empty glasses from them the rest of the time. Fair enough, some people are lovely and kind to PRs, but most of the time, you are not important. It’s not about making friends or having fun, it’s about selling your brands to influential people.

I will get to hear about new products before other people!

Yes this is awesome, however, unless you are lucky some of those new products are likely to be either incredibly crap or incredibly dull. If you are lucky you might to get to work with brands that you already love, but there is always going to be something that dull that you have to deal with. Plus, it’s not like you can do much with that info, there are often embargoes on new releases and confidentiality issues.

Oh yes, I get to talk about make up all day, it’s a dream come true!

Yes you will get to talk about make up all day and that will be fun for about a day. Once you have told twenty people back to back the exact same benefits and selling points of a product you will be pretty bored of it. Chances are you will be focused on one particular product/brand for a long period of time, so expect repetitive conversation and repetitive answers for a very long time. You are a sales person for that product, you have to spend the entire time being enthusiastic and knowledgeable about a product that you aren’t necessarily that interested in.

I’m going to be attending the glitzy, glamorous events of the beauty industry.

Yes you will, after working a full day being run off your feet, you get to pop on your heels and spend all night being nice to people that you aren’t that interested in and who most likely aren’t interested in you either. You won’t get chance to eat or drink, because you are too busy networking and talking about your brands all night. You get home a past midnight, to do it all again the day after.

And, a few other stark realities…

  • You won’t get paid a lot, considering how many hours you put in.
  • You will spend a long time answering phone calls and emails.
  • You are basically a press sales person for the brands, think call centre to the press.
  • You will be working in a fast paced, high pressure industry with a very high staff turnaround.
  • You will have to deal with tight budgets and deadlines.
  • If you are starting out, you will most likely have to work for free as an intern.
  • You will constantly be astounded by how demanding press and bloggers are for samples.
  • You will be hounded by management and brands because you aren’t hitting targets.
  • You are in competition with millions of brands for a very few press opportunities, expect stress!

Like I say, these are just points from my experience and thoughts, there are good things about working in PR, but the point I’m trying to get across is that it is a mega difficult job, make sure you know the truth of the industry and that you are realistic with your expectations before you get too involved.

If you want to work in the beauty or fashion industry there are lots of other areas you can look into: community management, brand management, product development, product design, merchandising, buying, marketing…etc.

Do you work in PR? What are your thoughts?

Was this interesting or helpful?

Comment below or tweet me @JayneJRead

 

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18 thoughts on “Thinking About a Career in Beauty PR? Think again…

  1. I worked in PR. Not in the beauty industry but travel.

    I spent most of my time managaing spreadsheets- event guestlists, timetables, budgets, staff allocations, press release schedules etc etc. Seriously 70% of my job was in Excel.

    A lot of the journalists I worked with though were very polite, interesting people and working with them was actually the highlight of my job. At least once a week I would have to attend/host an event or dinner and that was on top of working at least 8am-6pm every day. Most days later! When we had a big launch coming up it would be normal to stay in the office until 10/11 and get pizza delivered. I didn’t get paid extra for that time or get it off in lieu. (That’s the norm)

    The PR team was always the last one out the office even though we had a PR agency backing us up.

    It’s hard work. There are fun aspects obviously, but I would say you need to really love it to stick with it. There is a clear line of progress in PR… Assistant to Executive to Junior Account Manager to Account Manager etc etc… particularly if you work at agencies rather than in-house. That could be a plus or a negative depending on how you look at it. There is definite scope for career progression but you do have to earn your stripes and work very hard on your way up.

    I think that there is some scope to be really creative in PR and build a great team if you get to a senior level. The biggest problem and cause of stress with PR is that it can be very hard to justify where the budget has gone and give clear results of what you have achieved with each campaign as it is so hard to measure. For the most part you are not driving sales but awareness and that makes it hard to guve solid evidence. This makes it very stressful most of the time as someone in the system is always getting sh*t about what is being achieved from senior management and account managers.

    Like anything, if you work for great people who make up for the bad bits, you get a good salary and don’t feel like you’re taken for granted then it’ll be fine.

    I should probably add I no longer work in PR.

  2. Youve covered some really good points, points that are often glossed over by the media’s representation of the industry.
    I have done my dissertation on a topic that focuses greatly on the reality of fashion PR, so this has been a good and close to home read!

    good work.

    1. Thank you Jenny, please let me know if you have any questions or if you have something you would like to add. I’m sure my readers (and myself) would be interested in your experienced insight.

  3. Ive been thinking of blogging certain sections of my dissertation that covers the points made, seeing on twitter what wonderful feedback youve had from this post gives the confidence and comfort knowing that people are interested in the realities of the industry. So with that in mind, I may be posting something similar, if not a little more academia than experienced focused.

    However, on the note of experience; I have done a post on my time in fashion journalism in which I was exploited. I shed a dim light on the realities of interning in such an industry of fashion journalism/PR.
    http://cubloveclothes.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/interns-should-work-for-love-not-money-part-2/

    I hope to create more posts on advise/experience etc, looking forward to reading and sharing more of yours.

  4. I’ve lapped this article up as i would have a packet of m&m’s
    Very enjoyable and eye opening
    Umm, i dont think I am interested anymore, lol
    liloo /@tsunimee xx

  5. Fabulous article… I worked PR for an Art Gallery… Brilliant I thought – to be surrounded by art and artists and speak painting all day………
    Nope!
    Running around to printers, writing press releases, rewriting those press releases, getting coffee, sweeping floors, tidying, getting more coffee, filling forms, being nice to mainly nice artists but some truly arrogant poops, getting even more coffee…..etc

    I must say the time flew, I was tired, irritated, annoyed but overall happy with the experience. I did learn a lot, really! One tip… wear flat shoes!

  6. Great post Jayne – I think it’s important to highlight that PR is not always a glamorous industry, and it is one that requires hard work and an incredible attention to detail. PR does not equal promotion – its about so much more!

    I started in PR over 8 years ago, for a PR agency, and moved on to working in-house, and now have my own independent PR consultancy. I have covered all sectors, but most of my work has been in the business to business (B2B) area, working in property and finance. Its interesting how much my job and roles have changed, and how many PR specialisms have now developed, not just for sector-specific experience, but also across different disciplines – event management, online social media, public affairs, digital, media relations, etc.

    What I have found throughout my own career is that although media relations remains a big part of the PR activity many organisations, brands and businesses, the communications side, in terms of corporate communications, and strategy for business communications has become much more important. Its not enough to just have a few news articles – the messaging that the PR delivers is now being carried across all business activities, both external and internal.

    Many people still look for those great headline-grabbing stories, awesome photo ‘opps’, and ‘stunts’ that PRs are famed for, but those who have stayed true to the real PR craft know that its about communicating those key message to the right people at the right time, so whether you have to be on the phone, write millions of statements and press releases, or have your head buried in Excel spreadsheets, it all comes down to that one thing – telling the story.

    I would add that I have no formal qualifications or training in PR, or journalism, although I do have a degree in an unrelated subject.

    I wouldn’t discourage people from pursuing a career in PR, but I would make sure that they are under no illusions of what PR is, what it can be, where it can take you, and what you need to be successful in it.

  7. Really interesting post, thanks for sharing – must have been a bit daunting to put it public. I’ve often thought about switching to the other side and doing PR as you’re right, it seems very exciting to be the first to know about products etc and the PRs I meet seem so knowledgeable about it all. This has definitely made me think twice!

    As a journalist though I’d definitely like to point out that all the PRs I have worked with have been brilliant, and when I do go to events etc I genuinely am interested in what they have to say… sadly there are a few who might just turn up for the goody bag but I’m just there to learn 🙂

    x

    1. Judy, thanks for your comment. It’s fantastic to hear feedback from a journalist point of view too. So many people are just there for the goody bag, it does my head in. The press NEED PRs to help them with their job, so I don’t get why PRs are sometimes seen as lesser beings. Imagine having to write a whole magazine without the help of a PR, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do that sort of research for every article!

      We all should show more respect to those who do these difficult jobs, we are all people after all and should look out for one another.

  8. I left my PR job a little while ago and I must admit I fell for every single one of these cliches (perhaps maybe the free product bit – I worked in consumer)

    As a PR you are an admin monkey for a large proportion of your time until you reach a certain level. A certain amount of this is essential at any job, but I would warn you that depending on where you work and the people around you, this can vary from being mundane to a humiliating ritual.

    The sad truth is that traditional ‘print’ PR is being destroyed by digital. So at a junior level you will have to work very, very hard to get to the top and get any sort of decent wage or work-life balance (Especially true in London) You have to *really* love the job, live eat breathe it, not just see it as a 9-5.

    Moral of the story is – really, really investigate before you leap.

    Great post Jayne x

    1. For me, the main thing that I struggled with was the work-life balance. It’s so important, especially whilst you are young to be able to have time to enjoy yourself, being too engrossed in your work all the time is not healthy. Great moral, investigation is key, with thing like Twitter and Blogs, someone with experience is never far away to discuss things with.

  9. I work in the PR industry for an agency and have been lucky enough to work for some fantastic, well known brands, past and present.

    Before I started my career and whilst i was at university I undertook work experience, so I knew what I was getting myself in for (to coin a phrase). There is a huge misconception that PR is all about partying and hanging out with celebrities but the reality is it’s hard work, fast paced and if you aren’t working on brands that you believe in or ‘get’ it can be pretty soul destroying.

    It is true that at the start PR, particularly fashion and beauty PR doesn’t pay particularly well. However as with any career if you are ambitious, enthusiastic, forward thinking, competitive and a good TEAM PLAYER, then I believe that the world is your oyster and the opportunities are endless.

    There are pros and cons to every career and the media industry, in the same way as fashion or even dentistry is highly competitive but you have to go in with a positive mental attitude and not EXPECT to land some fantastic job, that sees you winning freebies and rolling out of nightclubs with celebrities on a weekly basis. Good things come to those who apply themselves and sometimes it does take a few tries and a few different jobs to decide exactly the type of PR that you want to go in to whether it be consumer, B2B, health or community PR.

    No job is as glamorous as it seems on the surface and there will always be spreadsheets, that you can be sure of! x

    I

    1. Thanks for your comment Sophia, really helpful. You are right, most careers aren’t as glamourous as they first appear, but things can change when you apply yourself. The question is though, can you deal with the pressure of that environment? Can you manage to stress and competition? Not everyone is cut out for this type of industry and it is important to consider this before getting too stuck in.

      As always, I have great respect for PRs, you do a ridiculously difficult job, which I will never do again. Good on you, I wish you lots of success.

  10. This was such a great read. It sheds some light on the reality of PR. I am a journalism graduate who started as an assistant and let me just tell you the day are extremely long! Your laptop becomes you life. And I agree it is hard to demonstrate if you haw achieved your target because you are not driving sales you are driving awareness. But there is some sort of thrill I get from the job.

  11. Hi Jayne

    I completely agree with you, not everyone is cut out for the job and I would say it takes a certain type of person to be able to deal with the consistent multi-tasking, prioritising and managing workloads not to mention all the additional hours outside of the usual 9-5 that can be expected of PRs. However, at the same time as being fairly stressful the job is also highly rewarding especially when running events or securing hero pieces of coverage…It’s all about what you make of it!

    I’ve recently started writing a blog which I absolutely love doing, as it’s something separate in a topical sense yet still relevant to my job in terms of communication skills.

    I’m at candyfroststyle.blogspot.co.uk if anyone wants to have a read 🙂 all feedback will be much appreciated.

  12. I have met a few beauty PRs who do seem to love their work and the industry they’re in, but dear god, there are some who are a pressman’s worst nightmare! They’re PUSHY (“Have you read our press release? Will you print our press release? Will you write about our press release? Can I see your draft before you print it?,” as if we writers don’t have OTHER things to do but attend to their REQUEST) and frighteningly in-your-face, and worst of all, they call it “networking”. Yikes.

    After years of being disillusioned with these kinds of PRs, I’ve learned to do away with all shame and ask for samples too. If I’m going to be treated like this, I might as well get something out of it.

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