Matter Chatter

My Life in PR (an excerpt from Career Day in Room 4A)

A few weeks ago, I stood in the hallway outside room 4A during career day at my children’s school. Standing there, breathing in that elementary school air that makes you feel like you’re ten years old again, I watched Carl’s dad passing around bubbling test tubes of something – wearing a white lab coat and goggles, and explaining a scientific theory that had enchanted the children.

Standing there waiting, my phone was dinging with emails (review asap!), ringing with meeting invitations (all day tomorrow!), and my mind was slightly distracted by the ever-present to-do list for clients and for Matter ticking through the back of my mind – things I’d need to do later tonight, because I left early for career day.

Suddenly, instead of being jazzed up about what a great career PR is (Telling a great story! Facebook/Twitter/Social Media! Working with smart people all day!), I was thinking about how much less cool it seemed than the demonstration of liquid alchemy currently underway in 4A. Fast-paced, stressful, demanding, with deadlines and crises that are oblivious to normal working hours, travel, all the demands of a client-service business, PR doesn’t always compare well to the easy-to-sell world of science (curing disease!), or medicine (saving lives!), or teaching (molding minds!).

Every time I have an informational interview, or am invited to talk with a group about a career in PR, I start by saying (because this matters to all of us who care about job security) it’s a career that remains in high demand. More importantly, though, I always say that there has not been one day in my career that I haven’t learned something new. The older I get, the more I realize how crucial that is to long-term job – and life – satisfaction. Not only do I love the daily challenge of learning, but I am happy to say that I’m a more interesting person because of my career – the people I’ve met, the products I’ve learned about, the programs I’ve led, the challenges and trials, the good and the bad – and I wouldn’t trade that for a lifetime of bubbling test tubes.

Uncovering and telling the story of a company in a way that captivates an audience, influences behaviors, and ultimately drives business value for the company’s stakeholders is a high that is both inexplicable and elementary. Who among us can’t relate to that great feeling of telling a new story to someone who gets something out of it?

So, with renewed enthusiasm I stepped over the boxes and beakers while Carl’s dad cleaned up his messy little experiment, and I started my talk to the eager faces of 25 ten year olds, by asking them: “How many of you like to learn something before most people know about it, and find fun ways to tell your friends about it?” All 25 hands went up. “Well, then,” said I, “You could have a future in public relations.”