Am I too emotional for PR

Ugh, remind me again why I check my blackberry at 10:00 o’clock at night? I know that I am running the risk of encountering a work e-mail, which likely will result in another restless night and a step closer to my bottle of sleeping pills.

But, I did it; I read the e-mail, a very nasty e-mail at that. A segment I pitched for a client went terribly wrong because, as you know, the media has creative license to produce whatever type of story it wants. Sometimes this works in our favor, sometimes it doesn’t.

The client was very unhappy, and boy, did I hear about it! I cried. That’s right, I cried a lot. I know as a publicist, you aren’t supposed to take things personally, but I do.

In fact, I guess you could say I’m an overly sensitive person.

Whether it’s screaming reporters, rude clients, shouting bosses or the general frustration of pitching, as a publicist you are expected to put on your brave face and just grin and bare it.

But at the end of the day, when I’m at home, behind closed doors, that tough façade breaks down. I am left confused, upset and wondering to myself: is a job in public relations right for me?

Granted, on the scale between one and ten (ten being a total emotional wuss), I place myself at a nine. I envy those publicists that aren’t bothered by the stress, the yelling, the segments gone awry.

Here today, I admit that I am affected by those things, and I think that there are others out there like me.

Crying isn’t a popular topic amongst the PR discussion circles. Why? Perhaps it’s because we are embarrassed, or it is the fact that we don’t want our employer (or future employer) to think any less of us. Maybe we are just afraid that others will assume we can’t handle our jobs.

I know it’s easy to tell someone “Hey, just shrug it off,” but that is just another case of easier said than done. I always thought that my emotions would be the downfall of my career, and it has definitely not been an easy battle to fight.

However, I think the fact that I care so much, maybe too much, means that I am a good publicist. If my client isn’t happy, I want to find out why and work towards a resolution.

I want to do the best job I can possibly do. If I accidentally send an e-mail to the wrong person, I get mad at myself and then vow to never make that mistake again. What I’m trying to do is be a better publicist than I was the day before.

This wasn’t meant as a “woe is me” post. My intent was to spark the conversation, to say, “Hey, it’s okay to cry and not be ashamed.” While you may feel humiliated and others see crying as a weakness; just know that you aren’t alone.

No matter how many tissue boxes I go through, I march on. At the end of the day, when I’m sitting behind my closed doors, my eyes filled with tears, I can’t think of another job that is as challenging, as exciting and ultimately as enlightening as public relations.

So, I want to hear your story. Are you an emotional publicist? Do you think that it helps or hinder your ability to do your job?

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  • http://www.twitter.com/kottavio Kate Ottavio

    Marie, I’m so glad you bring this topic up. We’ve all had those times when we were/are emotionally affected by our work, whether it be after hours bawling into a pillow at home or even holding back the tears at our desk. Yes, we are professionals, but we are still human. Doesn’t make us any less talented at the work we do.

    Like you mentioned, it is important to learn from mistakes (which in the case of a client not being happy with coverage they received is not your mistake…it was the media outlet’s right to tell the story as it may), and move on. We can’t be crying messes every day (gosh, in a female dominated field, we’d get nothing done! :) ). But know that you aren’t alone.

    Great post!

  • Gina

    Marie – I completely agree that there is a stigma surrounding emotions in PR. When we're on, we're on. We're expected to be calm and steady for our client's benefit and success. Acting as the liaison for your client can become a 24/7 experience when you take your projects seriously. None of us want to disappoint our clients. Succeeding makes them happy and – as one or two of us might be just the tiniest bit competitive – it makes us happy too. Similarly, hitting a roadblock inspires disappointment in our clients and in us that hits closer to home than we'd like. You bring up a good point with your post, and it is reassuring to know there are others out there who enjoy their job but who also need some time time every now and then to emotionally recharge!

  • SB

    While I appreciate the challenges a career in public relations brings, I do find qualms with certain aspects of this post.

    For example, you seem to criminalize the media. The media has a job to do; they are the watchdogs for society. But they also have to sell newspapers. If you give them an angle that works for them but does not work for your own goals, that fault lies with us, the public relations professionals. We cannot fault the media for publishing the story that sells papers.

    I believe it's more than okay to have feelings and express them in private or with purpose for a pitch.

    I also find qualm with referring to clients as “rude” and critiquing reporters' behaviors; these are the people for whom you act as an intermediate. Each has messages and goals that often differ. Challenging situations are inevitable, but we must act as a cohesive team. Attaching such negative adjectives is counter-productive and just plain disrespectful.

  • http://twitter.com/PRCog PRCog

    Hey SB — Welcome to the blog.

    I'm truly intrigued by your thorough optimism, as I'm a 'hope for the best, plan for the worst' kind of person.

    From my reading of the post I don't think Marie was commenting generally on the media flipping a story/pitch but rather a specific incident, which as we all know happens from time to time and it's lousy when it does.

    I do agree with you that we need to act as a cohesive team (at least on the client side of the table). But some clients are (objectively) rude – and some are all kittens and sunshine.

    I've had both – one is certainly more enjoyable, easier to work with and doesn't make me want to throw my phone across the room when I see the caller ID at 6:04.

    All of that aside, I don't see where identifying a common problematic situation is counter-productive provided it doesn't degrade into mere insult. If even one professional relationship is improved because a client realizes there are actual people at their agency that care about their work, the blunt honesty of one young lady is well worth it.

    And while the adjectives might be negative, it doesn't mean they're inaccurate.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kottavio Kate Ottavio

    Hi SB,

    Thanks for commenting. Here is my “qualm” with your comment:

    “For example, you seem to criminalize the media. The media has a job to do…” Yes, yes they do have a job to do. And I believe Marie accurately stated how the media does its job: “the media has creative license to produce whatever type of story it wants.” I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint where Marie criminalizes the media here. She simply states a well-known and hopefully respected fact for us PR pros. Let’s face it, journos and editors now do their job along with five other peoples’ jobs – I could never fault them for being short with me via e-mail or phone…heck we’ve all been yelled at by a journo. It happens….it’s part of our jobs. And Marie pointed out a multitude of other things that can upset us at this job, not just the media.

    KO

  • http://www.twitter.com/kottavio Kate Ottavio

    Hi SB,

    Thanks for commenting. Here is my “qualm” with your comment:

    “For example, you seem to criminalize the media. The media has a job to do…” Yes, yes they do have a job to do. And I believe Marie accurately stated how the media does its job: “the media has creative license to produce whatever type of story it wants.” I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint where Marie criminalizes the media here. She simply states a well-known and hopefully respected fact for us PR pros. Let’s face it, journos and editors now do their job along with five other peoples’ jobs – I could never fault them for being short with me via e-mail or phone…heck we’ve all been yelled at by a journo. It happens….it’s part of our jobs. And Marie pointed out a multitude of other things that can upset us at this job, not just the media.

    KO

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