As the sun set on 2015 and the new year beckoned, it dawned on me that I’d been in PR longer than I was a journalist.
Actually, this moment of clarity arrived when I’d been working in PR almost twice as long as my “career” as a journalist… which was a bit of a surprise.
This surprise was not due to the fact my life appears to be stuck on fast forward – although that certainly seems to be the case – it was surprise that I still had a slightly snobbish attitude towards the profession that has helped pay the mortgage for the best part of 12 years.
It was clear I was holding onto the opinion that I was a journalist working in PR, not a public relations professional (debatable whether that word could ever be attributed to me) that had once been/started out as a journalist.
Opinions on the fourth estate are polarised. They are seekers of truth, bin-raking guttersnipes, crusaders for justice, liars in the pockets of tycoons, undeterred voices of the voiceless, they are crap, they are fantastic, shameful, interesting, etc….
I always thought it was a noble profession…even when I found myself writing such mundane fare as Bob the Builder visiting the RVI children’s ward (“Bob was on hand to mend broken hearts and raise spirit levels” – a classic intro of our time) or bashing out six pars on Pet of the Week, “Jerry, the timid cat with the mouse’s name…” (Yes, I actually got paid for that nonsense).
Ego forces me to point out I worked on plenty of huge stories in my time as a newspaper man – murders, scandals, tragedies – but they aren’t funny and I’m trying to keep things light.
It is embarrassing to admit now, but to be frank, as a reporter, my view of public relations was an industry of bright-eyed master pesterers. Badly-written press releases (posted or faxed in those days, kids) followed by the inevitable “Hi it’s Rybeenah here, from Generic PR. I just wondered if you’d received the press release I sent through yesterday on the rise of gingerbread dog umbrellas…”
Argh, what do these constantly-sunny, ridiculously-friendly, ever-pleasant master pesterers want from me, blood!? Oh, they just want me to read this reasonably interesting thing that might actually make a photo-lead and save me a job… well, I won’t have it!
My view of the PR industry was ludicrously naïve. I had no concept of the time spent brainstorming ideas, the sourcing of tangible material for weak campaigns; the industry, inspiration and heartache that goes into every tender; the amazing high of securing a new contract and the teeth-gnashing frustration at learning you have just poured a weekend into a pitch that is awarded to the incumbent agency.
Having spent the vast majority of my PR life working in-house for large organisations (a council, a government, a business organisation) the last 13 months working “in agency” with my Comrades of Creo have been a real eye-opener.
The thrill of a front page lead for a journo is one thing, but seeing a campaign or idea blossom is just as, if not more, exciting… and, as it turns out, usually much harder work.
I think I still have the reporter’s approach to work, and operate “in the now” (yes, I know that sounds pompous) focusing solely on the task in front of me and maybe the next one on the conveyor belt at any given time. The planning, the preparation, the networking… it takes some getting used to, but I like it.
And the stuff we are doing isn’t the fluff that I once thought was the stock and trade of agencies the world over. It’s “stuff” that matters.
At Creo, we are helping to promote a city (one that rubs “six in a row” in my face at every opportunity, but I’m over it L), we make cows speak, we are helping to fill regional employment holes, cheerleading for improved skills, shouting about new innovation, championing entrepreneurs and showcasing cutting-edge tech.
Talk about a noble profession.