After more than 20 years as a public relations professional, I’ve seen a lot of different types come and go. I’ve seen Ivy League-educated geniuses crash and burn after only a few months, and others who excel without so much as a college degree.
I’ve seen average-to-good PR people with whom I would trust my life, and outstanding media relations pros who were arrogant, selfish,dishonest or all three.
I once worked with someone who worked so darn hard at PR. He’d work long hours, contacting literally hundreds of reporters at a time, begging them to write about his clients. He was able to secure some results, but his batting average was very low. And I’ve worked with others who seem to be able to secure an interview or an article about their clients with pinpoint precision. (Thankfully, I work with a few of those at my current company!)
Another former colleague of mine was a supremely talented media relations practitioner. No media outlet was beyond reach. But after a client told my agency at the time that it could not afford us, this person decided to work with the company on the side, without informing the agency. This person was fired shortly after being found out.
Yes, PR is an interesting industry. Another example …
PR is about self-promotion, right? So wouldn’t you want to give your PR work to a company that knows how to promote itself? In fact, you’d think that PR people as a rule would be quite into themselves, shouting “Pay Attention to Me!” from the rooftops.
And some of them are. But others are not. Others think it’s better to be completely in the background, focusing all their energy on clients earning the limelight.
In addition, as a PR professional, you actually have two groups of clients. You have those clients who pay you to help them achieve results, and you have the media (and others, like tech industry analysts), who are your customers. They are in the market for “purchasing” the stories you have to “sell.” Two sets of “clients,” paying clients and media customers.
This sets up a fascinating dynamic of having to help your clients promote the heck out of their business/company/product/message, and also needing to make sure that you are not the Boy Who Cried Wolf with the media. You only want to be contacting them when there is a wonderful story to offer them, even though only the most sophisticated of clients understand that.
So if I could sum up the PR industry in one word, it would be “balance.”
Balance between self-promotion and being client-focused. Balance between your clients and the media. Balance between working your tail off and working in as efficient a manner as possible to get your client where it needs to go without running yourself into the ground.
But I guess life is like that, too.
So here we are, just a few days from Rosh HaShana, and I have to ask myself the question: How is my balance?
Am I focusing too heavily on my professional life, at the expense of my family? Or is it the other way around? Am I taking the old adage of “No one ever complains at the end of his life that he didn’t spend enough time at the office” too far?
What about the enjoyment of life? Am I having a good time with my hobbies, or are they becoming obsessions that ultimately keep me from having a smile on my face?
In business, am I giving clients the advice they need to hear, even if it may make things more difficult sometimes, or am I such a pushover for the sake of the revenue that I’ve ceased being the PR professional that I always aimed to be, instead transforming my company into little more than a news release-issuing factory?
Regarding technology, do I use it to help me maximize my existence, downloading “audio growth opportunities,” both religious and secular, improving my efficiency at work and at home, and recording/safe-keeping the important milestones of my personal and professional life?
Or has technology become a crutch for me, replacing real personal interaction with selfies and pithy Tweets, and overwhelming any quality time with the family by enabling me to hide for hours at a time checking Facebook, Twitter and email?
How about in the area of diet and food? Do I try to eat well, indulging in the occasional treat, or am I so focused on eating well that I no longer enjoy sitting down with my family for Shabbat dinner? Of course, there is also the other side. Am I completely irresponsible about my diet, always going for the junk and only eating good foods when I am forced to do so?
When it comes to my views regarding the Jewish world, am I too quick to blame one population, while giving another group the benefit of the doubt? Or do I look at situations objectively, all the while trying to love every Jew, whether I agree with him/her or not?
I could go on and on. And it’s not even all the specific examples that are the key here.
At this time of year, we all should be asking ourselves whether the balance we’ve attained in all areas of our lives is the correct one, or if perhaps some adjustments need to be made.
But here’s the catch …
If the answer is that no changes need to be made, that probably means we have fallen too far to one side of the scale.
Here’s to a sweet, happy, healthy and appropriately-balanced New Year to all!