Mine, Mine, Mine

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Five business executives at a meeting in a conference roomOver the weekend, I helped a fellow PR professional, Mary*, put together her portfolio. We selected the best writing samples, placements to use, and possible interview questions that she may be asked. For most of her campaigns, she worked in teams. In addition to heading certain components of the campaign, Mary wrote all press materials. Yes, the team collaborated to create the key message points, but press kits, pitches, press releases, fact sheets, suggested questions and media letters were all created and fine-tuned by Mary. I gave Mary a mock interview and most of her answers included “we” and sometimes “I” and that’s when I started to wonder; if she wrote all the press materials, can she mention placements other people secured? Ever notice, that in PR we highlight the benefits of teamwork, but when it comes down to it, we have an “it’s mine” mentality?

We love to claim hits/placements as our own. Why shouldn’t we? After all it was our blood, sweat and sometimes tears that landed them. However at the end of the day, when we’re writing up an update for the client, we present placements in a cohesive manner. An update isn’t broken down by associates. It doesn’t read: Mary secured x, y, and z. John secured a, b, and c. An update presents what the campaign team was able to produce. But, just to play devil’s advocate, one might say updates are broken down by the campaign summary (i.e national media, regional media, internet campaign etc) so the client may very well know which associate is securing certain placements. But that means that the client needs to remember who’s working on which component and sometimes that’s difficult.

Now let’s bring this back to Mary. Say she’s working with John on a big campaign and they’ve finalized all key messages, but again Mary is in charge of writing all final press materials. Both John and Mary are using these materials when pitching and providing media with information. My question to you is if John secured a placement should Mary get any credit? Can she claim, “its mine too?”  Was it her writing that caught the eye of the media professional or John’s relationship with them that made them take a second look at the information provided? When it comes down to it, why as PR professionals, do we have this “it’s mine” mentality?

*Mary’s name has been changed to protect identity.

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

    The weird thing about PR is how much teamwork is involved as well as the simultaneous feeling of grabbiness. I'll admit it: I don't like it when someone takes credit for something I did. But if we're all working together on a project, and we all pitched in, then I care less about who gets credit and more about how happy the client is.

    But you know. There's always That Guy in the office, taking credit for stuff he didn't do. That Guy is a jerk, and in that case, yeah, you should stand up for yourself and say, “That was me.”

  • Kristen

    Great post! I remember securing an interview at my first job for a client and I started the email to the client with “I secured…” After it was sent my boss came running down to my desk and said its ALWAYS “we” never I. “I” then felt all of two inches tall and never made the mistake again! It's one of those things that is beaten into us at that first job and sticks for life.

    In my experience most people have no problem taking personal credit for the work a team has done, even hits that have been secured by another person because they feel they were involved in the process so they have rights to it. In my opinion by taking very little individual credit Mary falls into the minority in this business.

    Just a side note – and maybe I am a bit jaded – but I feel like Mary should take some “I” credit for team work – because if Mary wrote the pitch or press release that was poorly received she would be the sole “I” taking blame for the work.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    I'm glad you enjoyed the topic. It's been on my mind for a while.

    You bring up a great point, if the pitch was received poorly, everyone would be pointing fingers. If we can point fingers when there is someone to blame, we should be able to take credit for a job well done, even if it was a group effort.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Teej, thanks for commenting. I know we've discussed this at length. And I agree. We've got to stand up for ourselves when someone else is trying to steal our credit when they had nothing to do with it.

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

    Good post, Christina!

    Coming from a very small agency, I’ve had a different experience. With two of my clients, I essentially manage the entire account looking to my VP for proof reading, suggestions and ask her about things I simply haven’t learned yet. But being the one person who writes the releases and does the media outreach (then tracking and clipping), I feel comfortable taking the credit.

    However, I’m lucky to work on a very collaborative team. Danielle has helped me come up with event ideas for a client of mine she never worked with. And Jess and I have worked together on larger clients and share the credit/responsibility to the client.

    Seems like it can be a case-by-case basis but definitely something all PR people face in some way.

  • jeffespo

    Interesting post. While I believe whole-heartedly in the team concept, in an interview there needs to be the me. With that said, I would only take credit if it was something that I personally accomplished. So say I write the materials, I can say that in the interview – I wrote the material and similar things for hits.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    It's definitely a case by case basis. It's nice to know that both you and Jess can share credit/responsibility for your client.

    I'm curious though, if you didn't necessarily pitch the certain media outlet, but collaborated on the materials being used would you take credit for it when discussing it with someone else? Or would you use “we” instead of “I”?

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Thanks for the comment Jeff.

    So lets say you were on this interview, would you mention the success of the placements but only take credit for the writing? Or would you leave out the placements and only speak of the writing materials?

  • laurenfernandez

    Can she? Team work = putting the brand first. It's never our work, but the brand's. I can't think of any PR pro that takes a project from start to finish. If you secure a placement, then tell people about it.

    Whenever I send e-mails to a client, it's always “We” put this together, not “I” did this. It doesn't matter at what level. My account team is responsible for everything. I might be the AE, but that doesn't mean the AC or intern, and the Director had nothing to do with it at some level – even if its just looking it over.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Thanks for adding to the discussion Lauren and I agree with you. Whenever I update my client it's always “we”.

    But what about on an interview? How would you go about discussing placements from a campaign, if you feel it wasn't fully yours? If perhaps you sent that e-mail, but didn't write the pitch, or vice versa.

  • jeffespo

    I would only speak about the things that I personally did. If the interviewer was to ask about media coverage, I would say that the team got X, but I was responsible for Z (writing, smaller pubs etc.). If you take credit for another's work you will get caught sooner or later.

  • @jaykeith

    Bottom line: if you're in an interview, it's time to be selfish and stand up for yourself, showcasing your work and positioning yourself in the best possible light to secure the job. If you don't, I can promise you the next person will. In the eyes of the client, sure it's the overall “team” that succeeds and allows the agency to look good. In most cases, the managers and VP's look good for “managing” the team, but it's understood everyone does their part, and everyone can take some credit. That's great, and how it should be.

    But if you're in an interview setting, telling your prospective boss, “our team did a lot of great things on that account, we even got in the WSJ!!” won't get you far. They will want to know what YOU did for the account, what you secured, and how big of a role you played. If they can't find that out, they're going to move on to someone else.

    My advice would be to always be honest. Don't take credit for any placements or jobs that you didn't do (but the “team” did) so that if someone does follow up, facts can be verified, but no one will blame you for putting yourself in the best possible light in a job interview. If you secured a big hit, say you did. If you wrote a pitch that everyone else on the team used and got coverage out of, mention that. But if you worked collaboratively with someone else on the team to really impress the client, showcase that too, it will position you as a team player.

    Pick and choose when to be a little bit selfish and all about “you” because at the end of the day, it's going to be up to you to showcase and present who and what you are to a prospective employer, not someone else.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Exactly. Always be honest on an interview. Give credit when credit is deserved, and know when to speak up. I don't think there's anything wrong with mentioning how you contributed to a placement, but if the placement wasn't yours don't take the credit.

  • Laney

    Interviews its easy to take the “me” approach and reporting to the client is a “we.”

    But what if you are aiming for a raise or a promotion? How do you show your value without diminishing your team's work? How do you come across a team player when you are saying you need a little extra?

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    I'll agree with most of what's been said here — in interviews it's time to shine the light on yourself while still being honest. If it was your pitching it's easy to say “I pitched and got the WSJ, another part of the team worked on the writing of the supporting materials” etc. etc.

    Also wanted to share a story – I stumbled up on the LinkedIn profile of a contract worker we brought on to work on a special project a few years back. When she joined for the 2 month project the client had already been secured, we just needed a certain expertise and another set of hands on the project.

    In this young “lady's” LI profile, not only did she claim that she landed us the client, but that she also brought in other clients (that we had in fact had for years).

    The moral of the story – 1) don't lie 2) don't lie where you're going to get caught 3) don't think you've gotten away with the the lie just because we didn't ask you to change the LI profile. I can assure you reference calls received after discovering the LI profile were very different than they would've been if she had been honest.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Jay, love your comment here. Always so honest. I know for me, it's hard to speak so highly of myself. Talking about what I secured, the great things I've accomplished. I feel it sounds too boastful.

    But you've said it perfectly, you have to pick and choose and it's up to us to showcase ourselves.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Laney what a great question.

    I wish I could answer this but being relatively new in the industry, I haven't been in that situation yet. But I would assume it would be relatively similar. Be honest and not afraid to speak about your accomplishments. Also talk about how you benefited the team.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Laney what a great question.

    I wish I could answer this but being relatively new in the industry, I haven't been in that situation yet. But I would assume it would be relatively similar. Be honest and not afraid to speak about your accomplishments. Also talk about how you benefited the team.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Cog, thanks for sharing that story.

    I think people sometimes forget that interviewers really do reference checks. A simple e-mail/phone call is just that, simple. It only takes a few seconds to find out if something is a lie.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Cog, thanks for sharing that story.

    I think people sometimes forget that interviewers really do reference checks. A simple e-mail/phone call is just that, simple. It only takes a few seconds to find out if something is a lie.

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

    Good post, Christina!

    Coming from a very small agency, I’ve had a different experience. With two of my clients, I essentially manage the entire account looking to my VP for proof reading, suggestions and ask her about things I simply haven’t learned yet. But being the one person who writes the releases and does the media outreach (then tracking and clipping), I feel comfortable taking the credit.

    However, I’m lucky to work on a very collaborative team. Danielle has helped me come up with event ideas for a client of mine she never worked with. And Jess and I have worked together on larger clients and share the credit/responsibility to the client.

    Seems like it can be a case-by-case basis but definitely something all PR people face in some way.

  • jeffespo

    Interesting post. While I believe whole-heartedly in the team concept, in an interview there needs to be the me. With that said, I would only take credit if it was something that I personally accomplished. So say I write the materials, I can say that in the interview – I wrote the material and similar things for hits.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    It's definitely a case by case basis. It's nice to know that both you and Jess can share credit/responsibility for your client.

    I'm curious though, if you didn't necessarily pitch the certain media outlet, but collaborated on the materials being used would you take credit for it when discussing it with someone else? Or would you use “we” instead of “I”?

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Thanks for the comment Jeff.

    So lets say you were on this interview, would you mention the success of the placements but only take credit for the writing? Or would you leave out the placements and only speak of the writing materials?

  • laurenfernandez

    Can she? Team work = putting the brand first. It's never our work, but the brand's. I can't think of any PR pro that takes a project from start to finish. If you secure a placement, then tell people about it.

    Whenever I send e-mails to a client, it's always “We” put this together, not “I” did this. It doesn't matter at what level. My account team is responsible for everything. I might be the AE, but that doesn't mean the AC or intern, and the Director had nothing to do with it at some level – even if its just looking it over.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Thanks for adding to the discussion Lauren and I agree with you. Whenever I update my client it's always “we”.

    But what about on an interview? How would you go about discussing placements from a campaign, if you feel it wasn't fully yours? If perhaps you sent that e-mail, but didn't write the pitch, or vice versa.

  • jeffespo

    I would only speak about the things that I personally did. If the interviewer was to ask about media coverage, I would say that the team got X, but I was responsible for Z (writing, smaller pubs etc.). If you take credit for another's work you will get caught sooner or later.

  • @jaykeith

    Bottom line: if you're in an interview, it's time to be selfish and stand up for yourself, showcasing your work and positioning yourself in the best possible light to secure the job. If you don't, I can promise you the next person will. In the eyes of the client, sure it's the overall “team” that succeeds and allows the agency to look good. In most cases, the managers and VP's look good for “managing” the team, but it's understood everyone does their part, and everyone can take some credit. That's great, and how it should be.

    But if you're in an interview setting, telling your prospective boss, “our team did a lot of great things on that account, we even got in the WSJ!!” won't get you far. They will want to know what YOU did for the account, what you secured, and how big of a role you played. If they can't find that out, they're going to move on to someone else.

    My advice would be to always be honest. Don't take credit for any placements or jobs that you didn't do (but the “team” did) so that if someone does follow up, facts can be verified, but no one will blame you for putting yourself in the best possible light in a job interview. If you secured a big hit, say you did. If you wrote a pitch that everyone else on the team used and got coverage out of, mention that. But if you worked collaboratively with someone else on the team to really impress the client, showcase that too, it will position you as a team player.

    Pick and choose when to be a little bit selfish and all about “you” because at the end of the day, it's going to be up to you to showcase and present who and what you are to a prospective employer, not someone else.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Exactly. Always be honest on an interview. Give credit when credit is deserved, and know when to speak up. I don't think there's anything wrong with mentioning how you contributed to a placement, but if the placement wasn't yours don't take the credit.

  • Laney

    Interviews its easy to take the “me” approach and reporting to the client is a “we.”

    But what if you are aiming for a raise or a promotion? How do you show your value without diminishing your team's work? How do you come across a team player when you are saying you need a little extra?

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    I'll agree with most of what's been said here — in interviews it's time to shine the light on yourself while still being honest. If it was your pitching it's easy to say “I pitched and got the WSJ, another part of the team worked on the writing of the supporting materials” etc. etc.

    Also wanted to share a story – I stumbled up on the LinkedIn profile of a contract worker we brought on to work on a special project a few years back. When she joined for the 2 month project the client had already been secured, we just needed a certain expertise and another set of hands on the project.

    In this young “lady's” LI profile, not only did she claim that she landed us the client, but that she also brought in other clients (that we had in fact had for years).

    The moral of the story – 1) don't lie 2) don't lie where you're going to get caught 3) don't think you've gotten away with the the lie just because we didn't ask you to change the LI profile. I can assure you reference calls received after discovering the LI profile were very different than they would've been if she had been honest.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Jay, love your comment here. Always so honest. I know for me, it's hard to speak so highly of myself. Talking about what I secured, the great things I've accomplished. I feel it sounds too boastful.

    But you've said it perfectly, you have to pick and choose and it's up to us to showcase ourselves.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Laney what a great question.

    I wish I could answer this but being relatively new in the industry, I haven't been in that situation yet. But I would assume it would be relatively similar. Be honest and not afraid to speak about your accomplishments. Also talk about how you benefited the team.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    Cog, thanks for sharing that story.

    I think people sometimes forget that interviewers really do reference checks. A simple e-mail/phone call is just that, simple. It only takes a few seconds to find out if something is a lie.