“That’s great PR!” . . .When your career takes over your life

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(CC) flickr // tempophage

After I graduated college and before I found my first career opportunity, I made a regular habit of watching The Today Show with Hoda Kotb and Kathy Lee. One day, Hoda was thumbing through a newspaper (which she usually does to generate timely conversations with Kathy) and exclaimed something along the lines of “oh my gosh, do you see these Post-it notes (appropriately marking the page she was trying to find)? The people at 3M noticed I was always losing my page when I was talking about a story.” ( “ahhh,” sang the heavenly angles.)

“GENIUS!” I yelled, startling one of my cats.

The public relations team over at Post-it observed where they could solve a well-known news figure’s problem at hand (those dang newspaper pages always stick together . . .), and they sent a free pack (ok, probably 20 packs) of their product to then be seen on TV. I think I solidified my official PR-geekdom with this revelation.

Let it be noted, nowhere in the broadcast did I see an ad for 3M, Post-it or any other 3M product that I can recall for that matter (I know it seems relatively impossible).

After I let the excitement of an earned TV placement settle in, I realized PR (and my love for it) has taken over my life. I always make a comparison to my brother’s girlfriend, Amy, when I think about this topic. She’s currently a psychology doctoral candidate. I’ll vent to her just as a friend . . . and you know what she does? She asks me “and how does that make you feel?” Or my favorite: she’ll go even deeper into Freud’s theories or other studies of psychology as if she were drafting her thesis right then and there. Drives me nuts! (I still love her.) But I now understand, I do this too! I share brilliant PR moves I see from day-to-day with friends and family who couldn’t care LESS about PR. Bless them. They are so kind to me.

So, tell me. Am I crazy? Or has PR (or your related profession) totally consumed you? Sure, feel free to share whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll stick on the optimistic side that the “obsession” for lack of a better word, is good; means you are passionate about the career you’ve chosen.

So, what I was going to say next was . . . did you see the VMAs when Kanye got on-stage and . . .

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  • valeriesimon

    For most of my career, I have been cautioned to “leave work at the office.” Advice which I have cheerfully chosen to ignore. Actually, I don't think it is a choice. When you are passionate about something, it does consume you. It certainly changes the way you think. And as long as you are sensitive to the fact that (as you note) there are “friends and family who couldn’t care LESS about PR,” I say, embrace your passion. It's who you are!

  • http://twitter.com/KOttavio Kate Ottavio

    Thanks, Valerie! That's how I see it as well. Embrace your passion for it. Even if we (I) come off a bit PR-geeky ;)

  • http://twitter.com/BMJEWELL Bridget Jewell

    I love this post! I find myself doing exactly the same things. When my boyfriend and I talk about family friends that own companies I'm always talking about ways they could garner media coverage. I'm constantly looking through the newspaper, running across quotes that I think could have been phrased better if the person had been prepped.

    I think that as a PR professional, you're not truly amazing at what you do unless you let it become your life!

  • stephmajercik

    Great post! I find myself sitting in front of the television all the time pointing out product placements to my friends that catch my eye and also bring up PR in many conversations. I agree with what Valerie said, when you're passionate about something then it consumes you. When I find myself getting excited about product placements in movies and on TV and other PR I see in everyday life, I know that I'm on the right track!

  • @jaykeith

    No matter what career you are in, it takes over your life, especially when it's something like marketing/PR, business or finance. When you spend 40+ hours a week doing something, you can't help but be consumed by it even when you aren't “in the office.” It's very difficult for people to truly turn their brains off once they leave the office at whatever time it is, especially when they're going to be back there in no time. I think that the balance comes from people who can't turn off work at all – constantly checking the BB, Twitter, news feeds, etc. – that are truly consumed. Sooner or later those people will miss out on all the other “non work” things life has to offer.

    It's ok to be good at your job, passionate, and love what you do, but if work is all you have, and all you think about, then many years down the line you're going to look back and regret it.

    Great topic Kate, as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/KOttavio Kate Ottavio

    I know what you mean here, Jay. It’s important that we focus on the non-work things in life (family, friends, significant others) because those are the true everlasting parts of our lives. Jobs will come and go. But having a passion for your career ultimately won’t hurt, right? Just put the BlackBerry down_and_walk_away! ;)

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

    Yeah, you know you're taking this job way too seriously when you start muttering “PR fail” under your breath at certain news stories.

  • http://twitter.com/PRCog PRCog

    It's also not entirely our faults. After a few years in any business (as a career hopper I know it's not uncommon) your friends will begin to seek out your input/advice whenever they have a question in the field.

    [Tangent: They'll also ask you a dumb question as a joke and you'll find yourself giving a real answer. I.e. – does anyone know who's AOR for Johnson & Johnson – they should know they got a free placement at the top of this post.]

    But seriously once your friends start asking you about ad campains (and you're in PR) or they call you when there's a massive #PRFail the ball has already caught its momentum, there's no turning back, and you and your job/career are now one and the same.

  • latrivianelson

    I'm there with you. I have the same issue. Everything boils down to how you can pitch it, who you can pitch it to and what you can get out of it. When my friends tell me good news, I say, “you should write a news article and send it to the local paper.” When my friends come to me about bad news or shocking news, I say, “you should call the USA Today and get them to do a story.” When someone can do some weird trip, I imagine placing them on a late show as an entertainment act…Conan O'Brien. I'm so lame, but it's a natural response all the same.

  • http://twitter.com/KOttavio Kate Ottavio

    Thanks for the comment! Your examples make me laugh because it brought a certain example of my own to mind. My colleagues @jesslyon, @daniellecyr and I did a 6 week dance/yoga/Pilates class together. One weekend, the studio was having a neat/out-of-the-box fundraiser for a local nonprofit. Jess immediately perked up when she heard about it and said to the studio owner “oh, you should do a post-event news release sharing how much money was raised! . . .erg, we work in PR . . .” Ha! She said it before I could.

  • heatherdueitt

    Love this post Kate!

    I also do this when I'm listening to a tough interview and you can tell how they have been media trained. Watching them transition the tough questions back to the message points is almost as entertaining as Gossip Girl. *Almost* Friends think I'm a little crazy. I also do this when there is a major PR nightmare on the news. You always think, glad I'm not in their position. ha.
    I concur that passion is something you can't turn off, whether you are saying it under your breath or screaming at your cats.
    Thanks for the fun post.

  • AlexAizenberg

    Ha! i bet your cat was quite startled! I can very much relate… i can't watch CNBC and sunday biz shows anymore with a blind eye… all i think about it “talking points, talking points, talking points!” cant' help but wonder how long a briefing book took for those behind the scenes… it's a disease, but alas it's part of enjoying what you do! PR is everywhere, and it's hard not to look at things through that prism we use day in and day out.

    Great post!

  • keithtrivitt

    Kate, you are definitely not alone with this, as the vast amount of comments on your post can attest to! Let's be honest: Those of us who work in PR/social media live and work in an environment where our brains are always turned on and clued in to the next opportunity or the “next big thing” for our clients or our organizations. And I think that's a really good thing – we SHOULD be that way. It's really how all good business men/women operate, at least from what I read of some of the greats out there like Sam Walton and Jack Welch, etc. When you love what you do (and it's pretty obvious many of us on here do), then you naturally start to blend your everyday life with your work life, and what you are doing in both start to become one. Like @jaykeith said, though, we all need to watch out and make sure we don't blend the two too much.

    From my own perspective, I often find myself reading some random article in the paper or online, realizing that the story or a trend discussed within it may apply to one of my clients, scanning the byline and writing down the writer's name on whatever I can find. I can't help it; I see/read/hear a good idea or opportunity, I immediately begin to think of what other opportunities may exist with that story and idea.

  • kathycash

    Great post! I myself can't help but play the “which brand sponsored this segment” game when I watch morning show television. Obsessed and proud of it!

  • http://crackoutblackout.com/ HeatherHolloway

    Sadly, yes. I too am a PR geek. I was guiltily watching The City premiere the other night. Olivia gets a job at Elle Magazine and during the interview the guy interviewing her tells her about the PR person. He says she is responsible for all the mentions of Elle on TV, in the papers etc. So then she comes in and meets Olivia, they clearly do not like each other, and Olivia leaves. So the PR person asks the interviewer “Really? Blah blah I don't think it's going to work.” I laughed so hard. I wanted to yell at the TV, “Well, it was all your idea wasn't it?!” I mean he just said that she was the one who was responsible for all the TV stuff and The City is on TV. Sigh.

  • http://crackoutblackout.com/ HeatherHolloway

    Sadly, yes. I too am a PR geek. I was guiltily watching The City premiere the other night. Olivia gets a job at Elle Magazine and during the interview the guy interviewing her tells her about the PR person. He says she is responsible for all the mentions of Elle on TV, in the papers etc. So then she comes in and meets Olivia, they clearly do not like each other, and Olivia leaves. So the PR person asks the interviewer “Really? Blah blah I don't think it's going to work.” I laughed so hard. I wanted to yell at the TV, “Well, it was all your idea wasn't it?!” I mean he just said that she was the one who was responsible for all the TV stuff and The City is on TV. Sigh.