In just 12 months, PR has taught me more about people and their peculiarities than I had gleaned from two decades of journalism.
95 per cent of PR is mind reading. We take temperatures, sense moods, pre-empt expectations and adjust where required. The women I work for are disturbingly good at reading the water; so often their initial perception plays out many months down the track.
Clients, contractors, consultants, writers, editors, producers all have their own way of working and their own certain beliefs and biases around what they desire and what we can deliver. I have clients who know what they want but sometimes not what they need. And clients who don’t know what they want but often what they would like.
PR is about juggling the prospect and probability. It’s both testing and satisfying. The skill is in doing the merry dance without lifting your skirt.
The other five per cent of PR is memory. We keep track of behaviours and preferences, milestones and mores. As well as soaking up news and current affairs, social trends and fads, we know which political reporter lives with which cameraman, which marketing manager is about to go on maternity leave and which radio station is looking for stories about seniors.
It’s a deeply personal business and, as a firm made up of many former journalists, the media machinations now rupturing entire networks has left us aghast at the fallout.
Good PR depends on sharing stories through a diverse and flourishing media sector that speaks with a multitude of voices, through a host of channels. It is alarming to see so many of those voices being quietened.
Some days I am surprised to find myself not only working in PR but enjoying it. I collaborate closely with very bright, intuitive, dedicated people and, no longer beholden to half hour deadlines, I have the privilege of time to grow alongside them.
To my former media colleagues I say, you would be surprised by how much light shines on the dark side.
- Barbara Cox