Step Aside, Samantha Jones

This past weekend, I spent my Sunday watching past episodes of Smash. I love musicals, but I also happen to love the insight to the Broadway process the show portrays. But the recent prevalence of Agnes, the publicist on the show, made me wonder if what I’m watching is a true representation of Broadway. I got distracted from the rest of the plot by Agnes and how rude she is all the time, which in my experience, no PR person should be. It got me thinking about PR in general, and the assumptions people might make about the profession and the people in it.

Celeb-stalking party planners need not apply.
I’m looking at you, Samantha Jones. It’s probably a safe assumption that most people have some exposure to Samantha Jones, the feisty “PR professional” from Sex and The City. I say that with quotes around it because most of what Samantha does is…not PR. Most of the time, her job is mentioned because she is planning a big party or pitching a prospective client and guaranteeing Donald Trump will make an appearance at a benefit. While events are sometimes part of our job, even full-time event planners aren’t like Samantha. If nothing else, they don’t have near the free time she seems to have, because that is a really tough job.

Spin makes me shudder.
A lot of people really love “Thank You for Smoking,” the movie and/or the book. I didn’t like it. I think that Nick Naylor’s take on spin is pretty far from how I, or anyone else I’ve ever worked with, would ever operate. Nick Naylor thought that “if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong,” and he applied the attitude to his work promoting the benefits of smoking. Real PR can do a lot of good for a lot of brands, and “spin” just has a bad connotation in general. We always try to promote the best about any organization, but we approach negative things or crises very strategically and in close collaboration with the client and the public, when necessary.

As for working for a client like the Academy of Tobacco Studies…I’ve actually turned down work I didn’t feel I could represent well. In my view, it’s not fair to the client or me if I can’t really get on board with their cause or brand.

It’s all like…Facebook and stuff. Or not.
Social media is almost a buzzword now. It’s everywhere, and everyone is an “expert.” Except they’re not! I know a lot about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, LinkedIn and lots of other platforms. But it isn’t the only thing I do, and I’m of the opinion that these things should be used as part of a comprehensive approach.

If women ran the world, it would be organized and color-coordinated. Maybe.
PR is a field dominated by women, but it wasn’t always so. As recently as 25 years ago, the field was 80 percent male, but is now as much as 70 percent female. I think this actually works well, because the field requires strict adherence to deadlines and a godly level of organization. My need to plan and organize has spilled over into my everyday life, although my husband hasn’t decided if that’s a good thing or not. And female-dominated doesn’t mean there are no men. There’s still a good bit of diversity in the field. According to Abbi Whitaker, who owns Abbi Agency, “We are not all 23-year-olds wearing wedge heels, oversized sunglasses and colored jeans.” Well, I’ll still be wearing my wedges and colored jeans, but maybe not forever!

What are “people people” anyway?
You’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m a people person.” Isn’t everyone a people person? No one actually hates everyone in the world, do they? Good PR professionals have to know a lot more than how to win friends and influence people. If I’m really personable but can’t write to save my life, no one will take me seriously in this business. It’s kind of like if you visit a friend’s restaurant but the service or the food is terrible. You’ll think twice before going back.

The truth about PR is…
It has to be strategic. It can be stressful. Your friends and family may never really understand what you do. Every day is a deadline, and if you were never good at juggling before, you’ll have to learn how to multitask like a champ. It goes everywhere, and it’s applicable to so many different industries. It can be rewarding for both the PR professional and the client, and no day is the same as any other. To all the AP style loving, spell-checking, brainstorming kindred spirits out there: write on, my friends.