Guest Post: PR Mama’s Words of Wisdom

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I’m frequently asked to advise young people trying to break into the PR agency world. Given the extremely collaborative, service-oriented nature of our business, a high degree of emotional and social intelligence is a true asset for any aspiring agency pro.
Wondering if you’ve got the chops to function in a fast-paced environment where clients call the shots, colleagues test your patience, and elusive media stonewall your pitching attempts? I’ve devised this quick quiz to help assess your agency potential. You can thank me later.
Question #1:  A colleague routinely sends rambling e-mails after 11 PM. S/he is:
Frazzled and in need of a vacation
An insomniac trying the clear out the in-box
A drunken tool
Question #2:  You are presenting as if your life depends on it in a new business meeting. The senior member of the client team has not looked up from his Blackberry once. He is:
Dealing with an urgent media request
Monitoring a brewing customer service issue
An arrogant tool
Question #3: A senior colleague is concerned about the performance of one of your direct reports, frequently peppering your secretary for details on the employee’s comings-and-goings. The colleague is:
Concerned with bothering you with such trivial questions
Fact-finding before coming to you formally
A trouble-making tool
Question #4: You spend four months, much money, and countless man-hours advancing to the final round of a new business pitch. The client calls off the agency search abruptly for budget reasons but promises to be back in touch in the new fiscal year. After several months without word from the client, you read in a trade publication that the business has been awarded to an agency not in the original search. The potential client was:
Directed to appoint the new agency by the recently hired CMO
Forced to make a quick decision without reactivating the RFP process because of urgent communications needs
An inconsiderate tool
Question #5: A member of your client’s advertising team recommends setting up a Twitter account for the brand you both work on to push out marketing messages only, not to interact with Twitter users in a meaningful way. The advertising colleague is:
Attempting to help the client get their feet wet on Twitter without a major time commitment
Cautious about engaging consumers on Twitter before a more formal social media strategy has been approved
A clueless tool
Question #6:  A client calls unexpectedly at 7 PM asking for major rework on a presentation you thought was formally approved in preparation for a meeting with the VP of Marketing the next morning. S/he is:
Responding to last-minute input from the VP of Marketing’s second-in-command
Incorporating trend information s/he thinks will convince the VP to invest incremental dollars in the campaign
A micro-managing tool
Question #7: A subordinate shows up to meetings with you on a regular basis without bringing a pad and pen for note-taking. S/he is:
A prodigy with an unusual ability to retain freakish amounts of information in his/her head
Trying to save trees
A lazy tool
Question #8: The same client who never commits additional funds for big ideas dings your team for not bringing enough “out of the box” thinking to the table. S/he is:
A big thinker who believes the constructive criticism will inspire a fresh burst of creativity from the agency
Challenging the agency to “do more with less”
An unrealistic tool
If you answered “C” to all the questions, you clearly have the kind of emotional intelligence, collaborative spirit, and service orientation that makes a great PR agency professional. As a matter of fact, I might even want to hire you. Good luck on your career path, and don’t let the tools get you down.[Editor’s

[Editor’s Note: After my recent visit over to the PR MAMA blog we’re honored to be graced by the presence of the lovely & talented Stephanie Smirnov.]

I’m frequently asked to advise young people trying to break into the PR agency world. Given the extremely collaborative, service-oriented nature of our business, a high degree of emotional and social intelligence is a true asset for any aspiring agency pro.

Wondering if you’ve got the chops to function in a fast-paced environment where clients call the shots, colleagues test your patience, and elusive media stonewall your pitching attempts? I’ve devised this quick quiz to help assess your agency potential. You can thank me later.

Question #1: A colleague routinely sends rambling e-mails after 11 PM. S/he is:

  1. Frazzled and in need of a vacation
  2. An insomniac trying the clear out the in-box
  3. A drunken tool

Question #2: You are presenting as if your life depends on it in a new business meeting. The senior member of the client team has not looked up from his Blackberry once. He is:

  1. Dealing with an urgent media request
  2. Monitoring a brewing customer service issue
  3. An arrogant tool

Question #3: A senior colleague is concerned about the performance of one of your direct reports, frequently peppering your secretary for details on the employee’s comings-and-goings. The colleague is:

  1. Concerned with bothering you with such trivial questions
  2. Fact-finding before coming to you formally
  3. A trouble-making tool

Question #4: You spend four months, much money, and countless man-hours advancing to the final round of a new business pitch. The client calls off the agency search abruptly for budget reasons but promises to be back in touch in the new fiscal year. After several months without word from the client, you read in a trade publication that the business has been awarded to an agency not in the original search. The potential client was:

  1. Directed to appoint the new agency by the recently hired CMO
  2. Forced to make a quick decision without reactivating the RFP process because of urgent communications needs
  3. An inconsiderate tool

Question #5: A member of your client’s advertising team recommends setting up a Twitter account for the brand you both work on to push out marketing messages only, not to interact with Twitter users in a meaningful way. The advertising colleague is:

  1. Attempting to help the client get their feet wet on Twitter without a major time commitment
  2. Cautious about engaging consumers on Twitter before a more formal social media strategy has been approved
  3. A clueless tool

Question #6: A client calls unexpectedly at 7 PM asking for major rework on a presentation you thought was formally approved in preparation for a meeting with the VP of Marketing the next morning. S/he is:

  1. Responding to last-minute input from the VP of Marketing’s second-in-command
  2. Incorporating trend information s/he thinks will convince the VP to invest incremental dollars in the campaign
  3. A micro-managing tool

Question #7: A subordinate shows up to meetings with you on a regular basis without bringing a pad and pen for note-taking. S/he is:

  1. A prodigy with an unusual ability to retain freakish amounts of information in his/her head
  2. Trying to save trees
  3. A lazy tool

Question #8: The same client who never commits additional funds for big ideas dings your team for not bringing enough “out of the box” thinking to the table. S/he is:

  1. A big thinker who believes the constructive criticism will inspire a fresh burst of creativity from the agency
  2. Challenging the agency to “do more with less”
  3. An unrealistic tool

If you answered “3” to all the questions, you clearly have the kind of emotional intelligence, collaborative spirit, and service orientation that makes a great PR agency professional. As a matter of fact, I might even want to hire you. Good luck on your career path, and don’t let the tools get you down.

SSmirnovPR Mama (a.k.a. Stephanie Smirnov) works at a mid-sized consumer PR firm in NYC. She chronicles the challenges of balancing life as a PR executive with being a wife and mother at her personal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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  • laurenfernandez

    The thing many have to remember is that all of the situations in the quiz will happen. Frequently. If you are service-minded (which is how all PR people SHOULD be) then you do it. You deal with it. If it gets too bad, you address it or you move on. Frankly, it's not about us, it's about your client and brand.

    I've been in both agency and association, and both require a service heart. But in the association world, I get to leave at 4 and leave my work at the office. You have to be connected a lot more in agency IMO. And the tools are rampant.

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    I laughed, I cried. I forwarded to friends with the subject line TRUFAX. But isn't every job like this? The world is filled with all sorts of tools, and I guess what makes it livable is that we can all roll our eyes at them.

  • http://twitter.com/ssmirnov Stephanie Smirnov

    It's true that every industry has its dunces and tools, not just PR. It's also true that we have to try to give our tiresome colleagues and clients the benefit of the doubt because sometimes, the answers really ARE #1 or #2 and if we react calmly, we can suss out true motives. That said, the people who inspired this post are in fact tools and do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. In case you were wondering. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/ssmirnov Stephanie Smirnov

    It's true that every industry has its dunces and tools, not just PR. It's also true that we have to try to give our tiresome colleagues and clients the benefit of the doubt because sometimes, the answers really ARE #1 or #2 and if we react calmly, we can suss out true motives. That said, the people who inspired this post are in fact tools and do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. In case you were wondering. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!

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