PR in the City: Dismantling the Fluffy PR model

Two things inspired my Friday post - my chipped nail polish, and the new trailer for one of my "Must see" movies for 2010. Simply fabulous!



Carrie Bradshaw made writing look fabulous and I think I started my first blog somewhere around the time the show first aired. Of course my adventures were not as fierce but I enjoyed it immensely. I still do.
But I wonder if it is any coincidence that Samantha Jones was always my favourite SATC diva. In case you did not know, guys (cause the ladies would know), Samantha is a publicist and PR diva in the city. While I do enjoy her escapades, I don't think I am very Samantha-esque. My friend (free plug here) Soyini discussed the bunny/bitchy phenomena and to some extent I mentioned how there is this misconception that PR is all about glamour here as well. There is this notion that PR is filled with elitist excitement and is essentially poofy and fluffy, with nothing more than planning parties and getting clients into swanky venues or magazines, or doing photo shoots and sipping cocktails at industry events. Samantha's brand of PR definitely was but has this hurt the way that PR is envisioned, and more specifically how women in PR are perceived?

Pop culture has continuously shown women in PR as glambots, in high heels, sporting designer bags and sunglasses in a glam world, jetting off to exciting locations, hob nobbing with beautiful people in beautiful accoutrements. They don't always show the work behind it. The time spent on research and devising strategy and campaigns relevant to different audiences; how the messages are crafted, worded, delivered; how communications programnmes are measured for effectiveness, how collaboration both internally and externally can be often mind numbing because you need to get over the first hurdle of getting buy-in. Add the social media element and you are constantly dealing with the perception that you sit around idling on Facebook or Twitter all day, when in fact you're trying to better understand the tools to get your brand out there and get closer to your customers.

My last PR job - I wore jeans and a polo and most days, and I would at least wear some pumps to keep some semblance of glam (failed), and if I was lucky, a bit of eyeshadow. I sat around tables with people who sometimes better understood obscene language than they did standard English. On busy meeting days, I would eat lunch at an outdoor table between meetings, or in my car, often out of a box with plastic cutlery. Sometimes I would be in meeings after hours, tired and hungry. Your office days were "catch up" days and meeting days about other things. It was hard work. Nothing glamorous about it.

It is not to be taken for granted yet communications teams and programmes are usually the first to go under the microscope when budgets take a hit for the worst. Collateral damage. But the role that they play both from an internal perspective in channelling information to employees and getting feedback and suggestions from them, as well as engaging the wider public and reinforcing the brand and reputation of a company is not to be underestimated nor is it a role which is carried out via luck and chance, or through good looks.

Don't let the movies and my girl, Samantha Jones fool you. It's a job like any other,with deadlines, bosses, naysayers, multi tasking and fatigue. I sat at my desk touching up my nail polish because I never have time to do it usually. It may be my one small contribution to the fantasy of the glam life, because Revlon Plum Attraction is very fab-u-lous, honey.

As I told Soy in my comment, I am a bitchy bunny, as per her definitions - a bit of the two because image is still important. Let's not get carried away now, folks. Let's keep our feet on the ground here. First impressions go a long way in ANY profession, so looking good, not necessarily glamorous or expensive is not a luxury. It's a must. And chipped nail polish is never a good look on any woman and these days, on any man (though I don't agree with that look!!). So being a serious professional, competing with a negative stereotype, does not mean you have to "go against". It may not be Gucci or Mahnolos but clean shoes, a pressed outfit, neat hair, appropriate accessories still are very much in style for the working man or woman, in any industry.

And networking is still important, so yes, we do attend events ever so often but so should anyone else. The demand and the competition in the job market means that you have to sell yourself now more than ever, and you have to go where the buyers are, don't you? That is something we can take away from the amazing Ms Samantha Jones. It is not however, all that we do - just keep that in mind.

But I am not hating. Come May 27, when SATC hits theatres (hopefully the same day here in Trinidad), I will be among the first to be there to take in the drama from Samantha and the rest of the SATC crew. I cannot wait!

8 comments:

Soyini said...

Thanks for the plug dahling! But you are on point, I strive for bitchy bunny myself, but it's mood thing for me.

And I too will be at SATC 2 when it premieres whereever that may be.

As for PR being fluff, thank goodness for professional degrees and training certificates, not only does it make the profession more honest, there's a standardisation of functions. Now there's no question about what we do, and of it's value. So if I can make and present communications strategies in the Monolos I hope to afford, no one should let my appearance colour their perception of my ability to perform. My work should speak for itself.

kramtt said...

You will find i guess that where there are professions which the vast majority only know a little about, pop culture will glamourise it, FBI agents/spies in the 60s to even now, lawyers, cops, and yes, PR people. Basically I guess that because if you were to actually film what these guys did, you would be falling asleep! Believe me, I am in one of the glamourised professions, and wouldn't i wish for the lifestyle of my TV/movie colleagues... It really is to make better entertainment, so we can't really blame them.

But that is not what my comment is about.... I am commenting to say the nail polish ROCKS!!!!

kramtt said...

oh, and it would have to take something extremely special to get me to watch SATC, i avoided the tv series, the first movie and you can count on it the second movie

trinidarlin said...

It is rare to find a man who would love both the nail polish and SATC. I am content with having a man appreciate one of these. lol.

The sad thing is that some PR people go out and do reality shows perpetuating the myth others are trying to debunk. It's really annoying.

trinidarlin said...

Soy...you're welcome. And even with our qualifications and the hard work we do, there will always be those who place greater value on what they do and be condescending to what we do. We just have to keep on doing what we doing, do it well and enjoy what we do - that's really the crux of the matter.

kramtt said...

I would just like to point out that I do not wear nail polish, although I can appreciate a good colour blending in with the skin tones... I am waiting for the lawyer reality show, maybe it would be called "Courting" LOL

Soyini said...

@krematt damn here I was hoping you were a spy.

@avi I know lots of PR/ Television/ Radio people who believe the hype and are out there perpetuating stereotypes. In fact they can be found in all professions. In PR is can be disheartening because in many respects it's a professions that is still struggling for legitimacy.

@kramtt, Sex & the City was a boss TV series and movie, you should get familiar. But you get real points for knowing how to pick nail polish. Big ups.

kramtt said...

@Soyini nah, spies are supposed to be really boring people, honestly, BBC said so... and it would have to be an extremely special person to get me to watch and SATC... i saw about 20 mins once, 20 minutes too much.

@trinidarlin (and @Soyini) most people want to lead the glamourous party life, so that if that is what is portrayed by a certain profession, they will be attracted to it, even if it is not a true representation. Also, since to the uninformed PR seems to be an "easy wuk" you will find people who are looking for the easy life also being attracted to it.

Of course I recognise that the job is quite difficult, and that ppl lke the ones above make it really difficult for the true hard professionals like yourself.

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