Stop, Drop and Roll

Businessman crossing his fingers behind his backI sit here today a recently unemployed public relations professional who is giving serious consideration to a career change.  I graduated college in 2005 and immediately entered the biz.  I had high hopes for myself and took every experience for what it was worth, learning every moment and dedicating myself and my career to the agency and clients at hand.  I loved it and have loved working in this field for over five years.

Recently I’ve made a few career moves to learn more, give myself more opportunities and resources, and also to make more money.  I’ve gone from a small agency of two, to a mid-sized agency of 25+ and I’ve noticed a few things along the way that I thought I’d share from my perspective.

I want to make more money, we all do.  But, I don’t want to make more money and love my job less.  Sounds like a simple statement that we can probably all share and support but in the public relations business, I’m not sure at my ripe age of 28, that I can see this as a reality.  With every agency move, I have indeed made more money.  But I also see things happening within the larger agencies that I strongly disapprove of and disagree with.

I pride myself on client communications and managing expectations.  I strongly believe that we can only, as PR pros, do a good job – if our clients think we’ve done a good job.  So instead of promising my clients that they’ll be on the TODAY show, I promise them that I will do everything I can to make that happen and will shower them with more realistic placements until that happens.  My method has always resulted in the clients being happy with the coverage I’ve delivered and a mutual understanding that it takes hard work and a little luck.

The bigger the agency – the more promises I see being made and in the long run being broken, resulting in unhappy clients and a loss in revenue to the agency, which we all know results in a lot of high anxiety and tensions among the entire agency staff (equals unhappy working environments for many).  I can’t sit by and continue to watch this happen without stopping for at least a second and screaming publicly to STOP IT!  Public Relations is above all else, an industry of people and effective communications.

If the agencies can’t communicate what they’re realistically capable of, how are we to convince our clients that we can communicate their messages effectively also?

We owe it to our clients and to ourselves to be honest and to successfully manage expectations on all ends, so that everyone has the ability to WIN.  If Joe Schmo is knocking down your door with a widget that he swears can tell the future and is destined to be the next big thing, and he happens to have a million dollars that he’s willing to give you to go out and get him on the TODAY show – I strongly urge the agency higher ups to stop, drop, and roll.  Yes the millions are tempting, your agency needs it, this is a recession.  But is it really going to be worth it to you to accept this man’s money when you know in your heart of hearts that no one is going to buy that this guy’s widget can tell the future?  Instead of accepting his money and giving him some form of commitment – perhaps you might be more ethically suited to say, “I’m sorry Joe, but I don’t feel this is the right fit for our agency, best of luck.”

With that honest and reasonable response, you just protected your integrity, your agency’s integrity and the sanity of everyone on your staff.  Now your employees can sleep tight knowing that their leaders are not blinded by money and actually have a vision for the company’s future, which in the end – keeps the ship together and keeps everyone at that agency motivated to come to work, and do their best for the team, because they know their management is standing behind them, their work, and their capabilities.  Most of all they learn, that it’s not about the money, it’s about the job, and a job well done.

To sum this up – ethics and integrity play a big role in our everyday decisions and actions within this industry – we already have a bad wrap as spin-doctors, etc…  I’d like to think that there’s a future for us publicists who just want to do genuine, wholesome work while being honest.  I’d like to think that we can make a decent living without having to sell our souls for the all mighty dollar.  Hopefully I’m right.

Jennifer Cosgrove grew up in Warwick, NY and graduated from Champlain College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations & Media Communication.  Out of college, Jennifer worked for her local newspaper as a journalist and editorial assistant while simultaneously getting her feet wet at a small public relations agency.  Over the years she has worked at various boutique agencies and represented a wide variety of clients including Adventures in Travel Expo, The LOHAS Forum, The Smucker’s Stars on Ice Tour, The Wiggles, ECOBAGS.com, SunDurance Energy and more.  Jennifer’s interests include wine tastings, gourmet foods, music, travel and pop culture.  To reach Jennifer you can email her or follow her on Twitter.

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