I’ve officially been working in the field of public relations for about three years. Prior to my “new” career, I worked in retail management for 15 years. The more I thought about my professional life, the more I realized how much of what I do now, I practiced every day in retail for 15 years working at places like the Gap, Target and Wherehouse Music.
Over the years, I learned a lot of public relations. But, I didn’t know it at the time. I attended numerous classes, seminars, and conferences on how to communicate effectively with my team and customers. I also learned how to develop and maintain relationships with those customers and vendors. Other PR principles that you wouldn’t normally associate with retail was also learned: branding, crisis communications, key messaging, and event planning were also performed on a regular basis.
When you walk into a store, what’s the first thing you notice? Is it a display, lighting or clean fitting rooms? Everything I just mentioned (and more) is branding; it’s how a business or organization is perceived by the public. I worked with my team to ensure that everything the company stood for was reflected in its appearance. It was everything from clean windows, to eye-catching displays, to properly placed signage in the correct font.
Working in retail, I encountered customers that sometimes didn’t understand store policies and procedures. It was my job as a manager to ensure I knew the policies backwards and forwards (key messages, if you will) and explain to them in language that they would understand. This would be my first introduction to crisis communications. Little did I know that one day, I would be the one drafting the key messages.
When I reflect on my time working retail, my fondest memories were working midnight sales at the music store. Die-hard fans would arrive at the store around 11:45 p.m. and wait until midnight so they could purchase their favorite artist’s new album. It was my job to coordinate the event. I would plan each event and coordinate details such as scheduling employees, choosing which older album to play (along with the new one, of course) and promoting the event. (I may be showing my age, but this was done in a time before social media and iTunes.) Midnight sales were always busy, but without careful planning, it could have been just me and my employees listening to the new *NSYNC album.
I miss working retail. However, I love where I am now. The work that I’m doing is not much different. I work in an office rather than a storefront. I have a much bigger audience to communicate with. I absolutely love working in PR, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Have I changed the way you look at PR? Share your thoughts with me in your comments below.
Andrea Kenski is an Account Manager at Franco.