Thanksgiving is on the horizon, which means you’ll be binge eating turkey, stuffing your face with…stuffing and some of us even will be meeting our significant other’s extended family for the very first time. While yes, nerve-racking is a perfect way to sum it up (and if your anything like me you’re already thinking – “oh great what kind of questions are they going to ask me?”), you can be certain the age-old question that will pop up, as it’s asked almost instantly, will be – “So Robin, what do you do for a living?” Instead of going down a rabbit hole and providing way too many unnecessary details, it’s important to have a game plan for holiday small talk.
Have your elevator pitch handy in a simple way to understand. As a publicist in Los Angeles, this has almost become second nature to myself, and my colleagues, especially when speaking to industry professionals. However, it can also be relevant when speaking to these so-called “outsiders” that will certainly have no clue what it means when you say “I work at a PR Agency in Los Angeles.” In this case, it’s time to break it down so that Aunt Lisa doesn’t look at you with a smile on her face and say, “Oh, so you’re in advertising?” – No, Aunt Lisa, I certainly am not and no Uncle Bob, I am not in sales either.
Your so-called elevator pitch will have to be tweaked to your audience, as it’s best to paint a pretty picture before diving into your 30-second pitch. A few things to keep in mind when explaining what the heck you do for a living:
- Start with questions
- Talk about interactive! While this step might not be needed when speaking to others in the media landscape, it can be very important when explaining yourself to relatives that are on the…older scale.
- Gauge what they know, rather than launching into explanation mode. Start with a broad, simple question such as “How familiar are you with public relations?” By taking the lead, you have control over the conversation and can steer this in a positive direction rather than going down the rabbit hole we mentioned earlier.
- Focus on framing
- What might be obvious to you can be very unfamiliar to others. You may know exactly what it means to be a “Publicist” while others need more details to understand.
- You can use simply framing techniques to make it easier for people to understand and make the table dinner talk go more smoothly.
- Avoid jargon: When you catch yourself using industry-specific terms, like “opp” or “pitch”, replace them with everyday vocabulary. For example, instead of telling Aunt Lisa “I pitch pubs to secure opps for my clients”,” let’s go with “I email a variety of editors at specific media publications to secure story opportunities for the food & beverage clients I represent.” Your elevator pitch is not a rap song, so let’s not act like it is.
- Tell a story: Provide an example of a project you worked on from start to finish. People love to hear stories, and this can be more effective.
Now that we have painted the picture a bit better for Aunt Lisa and Uncle Bob, we can round out our elevator pitch. A few tips to keep in mind:
- Define the problem.
- You need to present a problem, it’s the hook. When you state the problem, you frame the service you provide.
- Describe your solution.
- Now that we have stated a problem, your product or service needs to be framed as the solution.
- State the positive result.
- This is where the “happily ever after” comes in. The best way to describe this is to make it visual and something that they will remember.
By clearly stating a problem, a solution, and a positive result your painting a simple picture that is easy to understand. It’s like a story. Everyone needs a beginning, a middle, and a happily ever after.
Now that we have conquered the steps, it’s time to put it into action. Since I AM going to be meeting my boyfriend’s extended family, I’ve done the leg work and will be all set when I jet set for Boston next week:
So, Aunt Lisa, how familiar are you with public relations? I work at a Public Relations Firm in Los Angeles, where we represent a variety of different clients ranging from franchises, like Mrs. Fields for example, and food & beverage consumer products, say like your favorite protein bar! It’s my job to create story and campaign ideas for our clients to generate brand awareness. We’re in a world where there is something new almost every day, whether a product, service, you name it – but don’t always hear about it unless you’re ingrained in the industry. Clients hire my firm to help their brand stand out amongst the competition. As a result of generating brand awareness, clients can see an uptick in consumer sales, get eyes of different investors, reach new buyers, and so on! They tell us their goals, and we make a plan on how to make it happen. It’s not sales or advertising, but it’s a whole lot of communicating.
Might not be PERFECT, but hey, it’s better than having another conversation about working in “publishing.” Practice makes perfect. Make sure you’re prepared this holiday season, and you’ll be extra thankful for more than just turkey this year.