Quit Labeling: What ‘Titles’ Really Mean in a PR firm … According to Someone Else* / by Lorraine Gimblett

You’ve been hired as Account Executive at a PR Firm. The job description explained the responsibilities include pitch creation, execution of daily client goals, content creation and overseeing campaigns.

Day 1: Printer is jammed and as AE, there is the expectation to fix it. 2 hours and one toner-doused ruined outfit later, ‘Advanced Computer Technician’ can be added to the skills section on the resume.

Day 2: Who is going to get in a cab and messenger highly perishable caviar packages to every morning show in NYC? Voila! Add ‘Highly-seasoned navigator’ to that growing list of skills.

What’s in a job title, anyway? It can be argued, most titles have little to no meaning or confined to one descriptor. In a smaller, boutique firm, everyone’s roles flow into the other and professionals are expected to wear many hats regardless of ‘titles’. In a larger firm, titles only serve as a daily reminder of rank with little to no regard for actual skill.

We wanted to share the most recent industry titles, descriptions and what their job entails versus what we secretly know they actually do. It begs the question: In a world where Highway Environmental Hygienist means Road Sweeper, have job titles have lost their meaning and are they going the way of the corner office, fax machines and dinosaurs?

President/Founder/CEO- Provides leadership to externally position the company at the industry forefront. Develops strategic plans to advance the company's mission and objectives and to promote revenue, profitability and growth as an organization. Oversee company operations to insure production efficiency, quality, service, and cost-effective management of resources.

Reality - Face of the company and is responsible for everything that ever happens (or doesn’t) ever. Shoulders and head are always VERY heavy – and not from a golf swing or too much sun.

VP -  Manages overall administration of PR programs for assigned clients, including staff administration, PR planning, financial management, budgeting, professional systems development, staff training and professional development.

Reality: The right hand man everyone needs time from and/or goes to.  A very important agency figurehead and function. Usually the President’s scapegoat whenever possible. Is able to shake blame off very quickly and passes bucks so fast it makes they eyes hurt.

Senior Account Executive - Manages multiple accounts with multiple elements and multiple teams. Focuses more on day to day client work and reporting those results to upper management. Rarely asked to be involved in any new business or macro-level initiatives.

Reality: Cleans up everything people below them didn’t get right. Traffics the ever-shifting unexpected snafus account work brings, gets barraged daily by supervisors, is apprised of the details the higher ups are never aware of and brings meaning to the word middle inmiddle management. Biceps are huge due to the heavy lifting; feet are fast from all the tap dancing; and the large hands prove useful for the juggling.

Account Executive- Responsible for the content output and promotional initiatives within an organization. Promotes and enhances profiles of clients through blogs, press releases and  pitches. Creates all status/clip reports and agendas.  

Reality: One supposed step closer to not having to deal with intense media outreach every single day.  One supposed title away to not having clip report nightmares every single night. Ears are usually very sensitive from all the barking and yelling – both from peers and press.

Assistant Account Executive- Responsible for performing research, developing media lists, handling schedules for higher ups, edits releases before it supposedly goes back up the change and then to the client. Works side by side with account executives to enhance client image, but rarely has the opportunity for face time with them much less give opinions or ideas.

Reality: Being handed over the less creative duties that have to get done. Lots of clip and media reports, frustrating back and forth confirmation mails about meeting dates, gift bag stuffing and RSVP event calls. The first of many checks to write in the world of paying your dues.  The first rung in the very tall ladder.

Intern-  Responsible for juggling multiple projects simultaneously, such as planning marketing events, writing press releases, and creating media kits and digital campaigns. Interns should also spend time with upper management learning about clients and developing skills to pave the way for either their future at the agency or at the very least credit at respective colleges.

Reality: Spending half the day trying to decipher instructions from the Senior Account Executive without asking too many questions, trying to track down that one media contact from that one blog, who wrote one article that one time in 2005. Oh, and maintaining and completing all the work that the aforementioned, have not (or don’t want) to complete.


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* At FSPR there are no titles on business cards. We believe titles are about as useful as a bicycle is to a fish and not because we are small. It’s because we think it builds a more rounded professional and every voice or idea, no matter how large or small, counts. The Co-founders still pitch media, what would be considered an Assistant AE attends new business meetings and interns have an all access pass to see the back page of decks.