I went to an industry conference the other day. One of the few I have been to over the years. A couple of girlfriends came and met me afterwards for a drink and remarked how young everybody looked. I looked around the room. Young girls were getting dressed up for the special awards ceremony that was taking place that night. I thought they looked lovely. Glamorous, full of hope and expectation. The future so exciting, dazzling ahead of them, beckoning them on.
I mentioned it the next day to a couple of friends at the gym. “I bet they were all botoxed up and full of fillers,” one friend remarked.
To be fair to my friend, she doesn’t work in the PR industry and so wouldn’t know what the majority of upcoming young PR girls looked like, generally and I thought it was interesting she would automatically assume that they would be full of fillers and falsies.
I reflected on her observation and then felt compelled to correct her assumption.
“You know what, they looked great. I remember being one of them. Getting dressed up after work for an industry or team night out. Our industry is full of hard workers, mostly. Bright young things full of great ideas and dedication.”
When you start out in PR, you might think it’s glamorous but those moments are often quite fleeting and even when you get there, you find you are often taking on the role of a swan – looking serene and gracious on the outside while pedalling furiously underneath, just to keep it all going.
It takes me back to the time when I was running a large team, working for a big consultancy. I had a couple of young consultants, really eager to work on a new beauty client and so I gave them the chance.
The launch was exciting – champagne breakfast and tour at new state-of-the-art laboratory that was heralding the start of the injectables industry – ground-breaking stuff.
We had a whole bunch of top-notch beauty journalists coming along and we had arranged limousines to pick them up and drive them out to the lab. This task I had assigned to one of the young consultants who had taken charge of it with confidence – looking forward I think to riding alongside in the limo and splashing back some champagne – not bad for a Thursday morning.
We had debated amongst the team whether to show the video of the injections taking place. One of the girls thought it was a bit too gory and might put some of the journos off.
“Nonsense,” I said. “We need to show the whole thing – educate them etc. that’s what it’s all about.”
Fast-forward to the morning of the launch and young Katie* is looking somewhat flustered. She was hovering around the door of my office.
“There’s a bit of a problem with the pick-ups,” she said.
I looked up from my work, the sinking feeling growing in my stomach.
We had carefully organised the pick-up time and place for each journalist so that they would arrive on time. It was quite a logistical operation with limousines running across various parts of Sydney and it was a hot day so we didn’t want to leave anyone waiting – plus we had made sure we weren’t taking up too much of the journalists’ time.
Turns out that Katie had mixed up the addresses on the list and sent limousines to the wrong person at the wrong place and time. Nightmare.
I rallied the team and went into ‘fix it quick’ mode. A few phone-calls later and limousines were re-directed, phone-calls were made and we were all on our way.
I couldn’t help feeling cranky though. I had delegated the job, checked in at each point and then had to rescue it at the end. I put on a smiling face when we arrived at the launch.
Champagne and breakfast canapés served and it was time for the video. As it rolled on, I could see one of the journalists, a young girl from a major daily newspaper, start to lean into Katie.
“Oh that’s good,” I thought, “She’s making friends.” I started to forgive her for the morning’s errors and stress.
The next minute, the journo had slid down Katie’s leg completely and landed in a slump on the floor. She had passed out. Great.
“I told you we shouldn’t have shown the video,” whispered my senior girl.
One of the journos sidled over to me. She was the editor of a leading woman’s magazine and had been in the industry forever.
“Don’t worry,” she said with a wry grin, knocking back her champagne, “they all do that when they’re starting out.”
Turned out that the poor journalist had been waiting for her pick-up for a very long time in the hot sun and the champagne and gory video was enough to tip her over the edge.
The rest of the morning went swimmingly however. We handed out press packs and waved the journo’s on their way, happily ensconced and on-time in their limousines. Mischief managed.
We bundled all the signage, boxes, bags and usual collateral in the back of Fiona’s tiny two-door car. I was stuffed in the back next to Katie who had perked up, but not too much, knowing she was in the bad books.
When we got back to the office, we cracked open one of the left over bottles of champagne and made a toast to making it through the day.
Katie paused, “I thought PR was going to be glamorous but today I realised it’s bloody hard work and you’ve got to think about every little detail,” she said.
Boom. Every. Little. Detail.
Welcome to the wonderful world of public relations where no detail is too small and every event, every media release, piece of content and connection, matters.
Luckily, in spite of the swan-like struggle of our launch day, the outcome was extremely positive for the client with rave media reviews and customer referrals. And that’s what matters most at the end of the day – it’s what has kept me in this crazy business for so long – the joy of achieving great results and happy clients. Oh yes, and seeing young, hard working people learn by their mistakes and helping them along the way.
*Names changed to protect the innocent