We’ve all encountered this question.
It sneaks up on you, almost like a viral disease, except a viral disease makes you sweat less.
It starts with that seemingly innocent question then the next thing you know you’re pulling your hair out or defending yourself from all manner of accusations.
“So, what do you do?” They ask. You tell them. “I work in/ study PR”. At this point they’ll have a number of possible reactions. These are;
“Oh, what nightclub? Aren’t you a bit old to be leafleting?”
“What is that?”
“Oh, you do realise that you work in one of the most evil professions ever and you/your employer are solely responsible for all the ills in the world”
“Oh, so you make adverts?”
The first reaction will make you want to throttle them, throttle them until they have not even a distant memory of what a larynx was. Of course you don’t work in a nightclub, that would b e much more fun (whatever that is) if, “What happens in Kavos” is anything to go by. You’ll then throw out the CIPR definition, that organisations, brands and people have a reputation and that you manager that reputation. They ask how you do that, you either be smarmy as hell and tap your nose and say, “Aah that’s the secret”. Although depending who you’re talking to you realise that tapping your nose may result in you losing it. So, you explain that you influence the media to give out a positive image of your client. They then say, “So you’re a spin doctor?”. You sigh and move on with your life.
The second reaction will have you face-palming with all your might as you slowly explain what you do to their bemused face. They are either naive beyond comprehension or have genuinely no idea what PR is. So you explain, as with reaction one. So they eventually say, “So, what is it you do then?”, despite having just explained it. You sigh and suggestively say, “Kind of like a spin doctor?”. They look at you with a blank face, notice something shiny and move on. Again, you sigh and move on with life.
The third reaction will do one of two things. It’ll either put you in defence mode as you prepare to take on this crusader for world harmony. Or you’ll shrug it off and move on with life. To knock the word count of this blog up a bit, we’ll imagine you take them on.”Actually, PR is suggested as beginning in Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia as a means to relay the benefits of the realm to the people, advice on how to farm and other useful facts”. They’ll ignore everything you just said and say, “Your profession is sick, you brainwash people, you brainwash children, you are all evil!”. If you take them on any further then bravo, you have succumbed to a life troll. If not, well done!
The final reaction always provokes the same response with myself. I just go with it. Pretend you make ads, pretend it’s all like mad men, that you all drink constantly and live a dramatic life worthy of a tv show, name drop a few celebrities just to further the shambles of a story and saunter on to your lunchtime of “business cocktails”…
How do you explain what you do?