Tag Archives: career

You Don’t Know PR

After more than 12 years in the business of public relations, it still amazes me how little people know about it.

I got my start in PR simply by chance. I looked for months for my first job out of college with little luck. Then a guy I used to babysit for recommended me to someone he knew in the city and that’s how I got my start.

I began working in beauty and fashion public relations in 2001. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea for a variety of reasons (low pay, no benefits; think of a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ environment where this Jersey girl just didn’t quite fit in) but I made it a little over a year there before I knew it was time to make a change. Ahh, how much easier it was to quit your job and decide to ‘start fresh’ at 23 than at 36. What I did take away from that job was that there was always a way to get something done, no matter what obstacles stood in your way.

I spent three years at a PR agency where I felt I learned everything I needed to get my start. The hours were awful and the management was mixed, but the pay and advancement were awesome. I got to work with some cool media companies and really got my start at understanding the power of public relations and why having a team of professionals like myself was so important to a brand.

Moving on to the non-profit world, there weren’t as many fancy raises or title changes, but there was so much more satisfaction. Managing and creating a communications department (where one didn’t exist) and knowing that the work you did was directly impacting lives and the bottom dollar that helped your organization grow was an indescribable feeling. There was also this warm and fuzzy feeling you got collaborating with your co-workers.

When I got laid off from my favorite job ever (see above), I spent a handful of months unemployed before I singlehandedly started running the PR department at a large media agency. It was here, after nearly a decade in the business, that I finally accepted how completely clueless people were about public relations.

With the exception of my first PR job, I have spent my entire career explaining what I do and what public relations really is, even to those who have hired me. Granted, that’s I’m there for, but within the last 10 years, nearly every client or company has been in the dark about this craft. That’s what can make it a lonely job, especially if you’re the only one running PR. People don’t understand your plight and companies usually don’t know where to put you. In fact, many don’t even have a communications or public relations department to begin with. Who is talking to the press for you? Who is advising you on internal and external communications? Who is making sure your messaging is in line? I could go on forever. In this day and age, with all the social media, real-time blunders, amongst other no-brainers, PR should be a requirement, not a luxury.

It takes a special person to work in PR. You have to be storyteller; you have to have patience, understanding, a thick skin and the ability to turn nothing into something. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that everything is not “PR worthy.” Translation: not every burp and fart is newsworthy. People aren’t interested in every executive move your company is making, nor do they care about internal “rebrands.” Companies will give you a million reasons why they think “this is a great story,” and when you advise them it won’t get much, if any coverage, they don’t follow suit. I finally started calling reporters I had solid relationships with and asking them why they weren’t interested in covering something I was forced to make a story out of. It’s turned out to be one of the best and most honest tactics I have used in my career.

Another thing that aggravates the hell out of me (and is probably my biggest pet peeve of all) is when the PR person is left in the dark. All public relations heads should be at the executive table. We don’t care about your bullshit office politics, we just want the information before it’s spreading all over the office and we’re clueless when the press starts calling because some joker leaked it. This is a huge blunder companies make – they don’t think their PR person is important or plays an integral enough role in the business, primarily because they are not a revenue generator. What they don’t realize is that we can help save your brand. When the CEO leaves unexpectedly, when someone dies, a huge client is lost or you’ve got a scandal on your hands, you need your PR person in the loop. I’ve never understood how executives can manage billions of dollars and thousands of people, yet have zero idea how to communicate externally.

Public relations practioners get little recognition. Many say it’s a thankless job and quite frankly, it can be. When you get a great press hit, win an award or execute a successful campaign, the people behind it are usually forgotten. The brand gets visibility, the company, the executive(s) behind it, and while internally you may get some positive feedback and hi-fives, no one on the outside world really knows how it got on the front page of The New York Times, and you know what, they don’t care.

So why I have been doing PR for so many years? I’m good at, I like people, I love to write and there’s this feeling I get when something I spearhead goes from my desk to being broadcast nationally on TV or in the news. I landed in PR by chance. I’m now a stay-at-home-mom who very occasionally consults and tries to keep up with the trends. In the meantime, I hope Olivia Pope and all the other ‘fixers’ and ‘problem solvers’ out there are continuing to pave the way for us PR heroes.

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My Old Career Self

Some days, like today, I miss my old career self. I miss my fast-talking, PR slinging self, calling reporters, doing TV interviews and holding valuable information from the C-suite.

These days, I’m the CEO. My job includes playing at the park, making home cooked meals, cleaning, paying bills, running errands. It sounds boring, but most days, I do feel accomplished, at least in my own little world. I’m reading a good book and get in some bad reality TV while surfing the web (do people still use that phrase?). I’m constantly trying to order pictures that I never seem to do, get easily sidetracked by text messages and Facebook, and seem to do endless amounts of laundry. I talk daily (in my head) about doing something with my “book” but it just sits on my computer. Somehow it’s easier that way.

I have a good life. One that is probably better than most. I get to stay home with my daughter and watch her grow and learn. I’m not saying that in a cliché way or to make myself feel better, I truly feel I am fortunate. I live in a nice house and have great family and friends that I get to see often because I am home. But some days, I miss the executive the world. The same world that I would bitch and moan about while I was in it (i.e. underpaid, shitty bosses, the commute).

I used to do some pretty cool things while I worked in public relations. I handled communications for the Red Cross during Sully’s epic landing of Miracle on the Hudson; I launched HD Radio (when it was supposed to be a big thing back in 2006); I worked with high ranking CEOs; managed crises; traveled. I used my mind in completely different ways. I knew what was trending, wore more than yoga pants and tank tops, and sported pretty fabulous shoes.

Sadly, I was at a dead end job during my last phase of employment. There was no advancing, no one really knew what I did or the importance of having a PR representative despite my best efforts, and it was really lonely. So transitioning from that world to my current one wasn’t too tough because my world now is much fuller, even if the demands are different.

But there are some days, days like today, when I miss being “important;” where people, and the public, depended on me, little ‘ol me to relay and disseminate crucial and critical information. Information beyond what we’re having for dinner or if I called the repairman. Yet, I wouldn’t change my situation or give up this gig to have it all back. It’s just nice to remember my old “career self” every now and then for a feel good, ego boost moment. I’ll be back someday though. Don’t you worry.

How’d You Get THAT From My Resume?

Information Security Analyst. Licensed Practical Nurse. Project Engineer. Screen Printer. Speech-Language Pathologist. Intern.

Do any of these scream Public Relations / Communications professional to you? Yeah, me neither. But for some reason, they always seem to pop up in my daily job alerts.

I subscribe to a lot of job boards that automatically send you searches each day in an effort to “weed out” the jobs that don’t match your skill set or preferred job type. I have tailored these alerts time and again to meet my specific criteria.  After a year of job hunting, I have come to the conclusion that these saved job searches are a piece of crap.

I don’t know how anything in my resume would qualify me to be an Information Security Analyst. My specialties are internal and external communications, writing, and media strategies; not cyber threats and computer technology.  C’mon CareerBuilder, get your act together!

While there might be some similarities in the words in my resume and the professions listed above (can anyone say COMMUNICATIONS?), doesn’t nearly everyone have communications in their resume these days? Don’t we all possess communications skills in one way or another? Interpersonal, oral, visual, written, etc.? In this day of technological advancement, isn’t there some tool that can separate these jobs from one another? I mean, are the nurse, screen printer and project engineer getting my PR listings?

The job hunt is a daily struggle in and of itself.  The last thing any jobless person needs is a worthless job alert.  So to all the career sites out there that send automated job alerts, please do your due diligence to the unemployed and send the right jobs to your subscribers or don’t send any at all!

Why Finding a Job is a Lot Like Dating

I have come to the conclusion that finding a job is like dating. While I am not on the market for a man, I am for a job and have been for some time. And I recently realized how looking for a full-time career is just like looking for a mate.

Think about it. When you are on the prowl for a job, you try hard to find something that suits you just perfectly. An occupation you can see yourself in for a few years, accomplish goals, learn new things, have some fun. When you finally find something that might be the right fit, you make a move. You apply online, network through friends or former colleagues, make some calls, meet up for drinks; basically, you look for a way to get hooked up.  You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait for an email, a phone call, some form of communication.

It’s on – they want to set a date. For an interview that is. You pick out your prettiest outfit, make sure your hair is in place and pull out those fabulous pair of shoes that have been sitting in the closet since you got laid off. You’re on time, even a little early to show your enthusiasm and dependability. You want this person to know you are a keeper! The interview goes great and they tell you the words every candidate hates to hear, “We’ll be in touch.”

You do your due diligence. You send a grand-spanking thank you note, expressing your extreme interest in the job. You make sure you aren’t too forward, as to not scare the potential suitor off, but enough to show your excitement. And then you wait again. Every time the phone rings, you hope it’s that employer. Whenever you open your email, it’s the only thing you can think about. Days become weeks and there’s no response. You reach out and send a friendly hello to remind them of your sparkling personality and interest in them. Still, nothing.

And then it’s over. Somehow you find out it didn’t work out. Through an email, a friend, it really doesn’t matter at that point. They wanted to be with someone else. You weren’t the right fit, you didn’t have the qualities they were looking for, but it was great meeting you and they are sure you’ll find someone else. All that time, energy and hope, flushed away on another company that didn’t want to be with you. But this has happened before. You’ve been dealt this hand time and again, especially in this market. It just wasn’t meant to be.  Don’t get discouraged. All it means is this job wasn’t for you and the right one is still out there waiting for you. Go get ’em tiger!

What I Want to be When I Grow Up…

Before losing my job or trying to find a new career path, I always wished that I was doing something else. Doesn’t everyone? I always believed that the grass was greener on the other side. Isn’t it?

Since losing my job (oh, and we can’t forget the job I got but was taken back), I have been contemplating what my next step will be. Maybe this is the time to really delve into my writing (trying to do that). Maybe I should volunteer or give back somehow (applied to be a volunteer – I worked for Red Cross, I know how valuable volunteers are!). My mind is running aimlessly and endlessly.

Having been unemployed before, I understand the value of having this “free time.” The last time I lost my job, I was about eight weeks away from getting married. While I still interviewed and tried to find a job (I even landed a gig six days later but it wasn’t for me…is there a pattern here?), I also came to the realization that I had the opportunity to finish planning my wedding and start fresh on the employment path just a few weeks later. This time around, it’s a little different.

When my husband lost his job, I told him this was his opportunity to do a lot of the things he always wanted to do that he couldn’t because work got in the way, such as travel, play guitar, see family and friends. Of course, you’re still looking for work, but at some point, you burn out after hours at the computer, networking, phone calls. If you’re unemployed, you know the drill.

There is so much I want to do and be right now. It’s so confusing. I recently turned 31 and while I am still young (in my eyes at least), I feel like I have lost this huge opportunity to start something new, which I know is outrageous. I would completely discourage someone from that state of mind if they told me that.

So here are some of the things I have wanted to be since I lost my job and even while I was pitching stories and being the media maven that I have been for the last eight years:

  • Writer
  • Lawyer
  • Doctor / Surgeon
  • Detective
  • News Reporter
  • Reality TV Star
  • Radio Announcer
  • Actress
  • Postal Clerk
  • Scientist

While some of these occupations are completely attainable, some are so out of reach given where I am in life; at least that is how I feel. For example, if I wanted to be a doctor, I would have to be in school for like eight years and by then I would be almost 40 before I’d even be a resident or something. How would that affect my plans for the future, for a family, how would I pay back all those student loans? And let’s not get into the math and science aspect. I work with the other side of the brain, which brings me to the detective and scientist.

Sometimes I think I chose the wrong career. Communications is so broad; I wish I had a more definitive specialty. But I have excelled thus far and maybe my skill set can help someone down the road somehow, including myself. Maybe it’s just time to “nut up” and try something new and different. We’ll see. In the meantime, while I wait for Hollywood to call, maybe I’ll brush up on my math and science (and reruns of CSI and Law and Order can’t hurt either, right?).