Yesterday was the first full day of Spring. Why, then, was my daughter’s preschool calling my cell phone at 5:31 in the morning? Snow day! Yep. Not only did I have four clients needing my attention on an already packed Monday, I now had one more very important client that would need tending to. So, I called upon my friend, latte, packed a bag, and headed into the office with my little sidekick.
Thankfully, I work in a place that promotes work-life balance, and kids – like dogs and bearded dragons – are welcome in the office. I appreciate not everyone is as lucky. Don’t get me wrong. There is no such thing as putting in a full day when you’re also caring for a high-energy preschooler – at least not until bedtime. There are bathroom breaks, snack breaks, “Mommy, I spilled my orange juice all over the rug” breaks. It never ends. In fact, it’s a lot like working in PR. Here are just a handful of things parenting and PR have in common.
Get to know the other side of 9 p.m.
Office hours might be 9-5, but is a PR practitioner’s work ever truly done? After crossing off as much as I can between 8 and 10 p.m., I go to bed already strategizing how to attack my ever-growing list of deliverables as soon as I walk into the office by 8:30 the next morning. And, I can’t even start those tasks until I scan the news and catch up on whatever emails came through overnight from international or insomniac clients. Just as I’m finally allowing myself to drift off, “Mom, I’m thirsty.” Water delivered. “Mom, can I come to your bed?” I can either fight this battle for the next hour or bring another warm (okay, stifling hot and sweaty) body into the family bed, as it’s become, to writhe around and kick me with fat, tiny feet all night. Win-win, huh?
Keep cool in a crisis
In crisis PR, it’s important to keep calm and carry on. Discourage drama, don’t fuel the fire. Never say anything that isn’t true just to appease a reporter (or anxious client) and move forward. If you don’t know something, be honest – and then find out the answer. The same goes for dealing with a stressed out, screaming or in general unhappy child. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just wanted to scream back, “I know! I’m tired, too! I don’t know why the Easter Bunny isn’t here, when clearly it’s an Easter egg hunt and of course that would make too much sense and be too easy, and oh-my-god if you just stop crying … (sigh).” But instead, I got too creative: “Honey, the Easter Bunny isn’t here because he’s sick and had to stay home to rest for Easter. Have some candy.” Cut to the next afternoon. “Mom, Emma said she saw the Easter Bunny at the mall yesterday, but I thought he was sick!” Well, crap.
It’s easy to get swept up when you’re pitching a new client, or a new story for an existing client, with dreams that every reporter you call is going to run the story front page – and above the fold. Reality check. There are a billion other publicists out there gunning for the same thing. While you might have something ground-breaking, you don’t know what else is hitting inboxes that morning, not to mention what breaking story is going to disrupt the news cycle. It’s much better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. Back to that Easter egg hunt. I could have avoided a crisis by not verbally anticipating an Easter Bunny sighting. Next year, I’ll make sure to talk up the eggs.
Always be prepared
You might be visiting a client’s office for a meeting to discuss a very specific project, but don’t be surprised if they will also want to chat about the other programs, events, activations and media opportunities you’re currently managing for them. Have a folder of printed documents tucked away in your laptop case just in case. Never be unprepared. Same goes for parenting. You think you’re just going to lunch and then for a play date. But, the one day you don’t have an extra change of clothes in the car is the one day the cup of milk – or worse – ends up all over your kid’s pants. And no one wants a stinky kid coming over. Also, snacks. Stash them anywhere you can. Your glove box, a secret backpack pocket, your purse. You can never have enough snacks. The smaller the better. Those adorably pudgy fingers have to really work to eat a little container of Cheerios. And that, my friend, buys you time.
Even though PR consistently ranks as one of the most stressful jobs – and parenting should be right up there, IMHO – they are two of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Quite frankly, the combination of the two is, while at times almost more than one person can handle, the most perfect scenario. Not only am I getting to show my daughter how important it is to be strong, committed and hard-working, I’m also getting a chance to grow as a professional and an individual. The choice to work in a fast-paced industry like PR means staying on top of news trends, wearing grown-up clothes, and maybe getting to travel somewhere new (my sister reminds me that the only thing worse than too much work travel is no work travel).
And, to me, being a parent gives everything else in the world meaning.
– Monica Higgins