For our first political profile, we spoke to Jim Key, Chief Public Affairs Officer, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Marriage equality is on the ballot in four states this November, making it a hot topic everywhere in our country. We wanted to know the ins and outs of his job, especially during an election season where gay rights are being discussed in many living rooms. Here are his answers:
1. What’s most rewarding about being a public relations director? What I love the most about my job is the opportunity to shape and influence public opinion, including convincing legislators to sign LBGT-supportive bills, applying pressure to corporations that oppose LGBT equality and dispelling myths and stereotypes about LGBT people. We do all of that and much more.
2. What is the most stressful aspect of the job? The most stressful is also the most exciting—no two days are alike and the work schedule can be crazy. I’ve been awakened by calls from reporters who want our response to a horrific gay bashing that happened the night before. Though sometimes the surprises are more exciting, like when we had to quickly craft a response to the president’s announcement of support for marriage equality. But because they are surprises—and always seem to happen when you’re most busy—they can be stressful. This typically isn’t a career for those who can’t handle stress.
3. What kind of person makes a good public relations manager? Being a strong writer is so important! It seems, however, that there are fewer and fewer people who can write persuasively, effectively and concisely. Creativity, tenacity, common sense, sound judgment, strong networking skills, attention-to-detail, grace under pressure and great presentation skills are all qualities of a strong public relations professional.
4. What sort of educational background (major, degree) is typical for successful PR professionals? I think successful PR people can come from a variety of educational backgrounds as long as they have many of the qualities listed above. I majored in business administration/marketing, was trained as a journalist by the military, and learned public relations on the job at an agency. The background in journalism and marketing has been incredibly helpful to me in my career. Knowing and thinking like a journalist will help anyone who works in media relations.
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