I’m going to answer a question I received regarding my post, “How To Survive the Nightly Conference Party”. It is about the, ahem, “hooking up” that sometimes happens at conferences. Originally, I wasn’t going to get into that, but after receiving the question, and then having Gini Dietrich mention it in the comments, I decided to address it.
Let me begin with a true story.
Early in my career I attended a financial aid conference. (I was a marketing representative for student loans back in the nineties.) It was a tight knit group because there are only so many colleges and universities in the state of Florida, or any state for that matter.
As I mentioned in my post, my boss was a smart young man who wasn’t too bad looking. And, he was single. Of course, this meant that many of the young women in our state industry had their eyes on him. He didn’t help matters by flirting with them, but no harm, no foul, right?
Back to the conference in question. It had been a long conference and it was the final night, which meant people were really letting loose. As the night wore on, my boss and a client were getting “close”. The rest of us weren’t too worried because the boss had never crossed that line.
Weeelllll…the next morning I was waiting on the elevator. The doors opened and the client was standing there, horror in her eyes as she looked at me in recognition. You see, she was wearing the same clothes from the night before, and it was clear that she was doing the “walk of shame”.
I think it’s clear what happened.
The aftermath? The client was so ashamed of herself that she quit her job.
What we learned
Regardless of why the hook-up happened, it happened. The result was a loss of reputation, and damage to another. In addition to the client quitting her job, there were numerous awkward encounters between my boss and clients after that.
You must remember that you’re always working when around clients or co-workers. There is no free pass if you do something embarrassing. Even if people laugh it off, it’s still a part of your reputation.
Here’s hoping you liked my first post regarding how to survive the nightly conference parties. I’m back to share an experience I had regarding ethics and integrity in public relations for you to contemplate.
Consider this situation:
You are the assistant to the Public Relations Manager who handles communications for a manufactured home company. (No worries, it has been out of business for years.)
You like your boss because she is fair, good at what she does and works hard. She honestly believes the people she works for are ethical.
It’s a small town where many people relied on this company for their jobs. The local media put up with the company because of this even though a new model of a manufactured home wasn’t really the news they wanted to hear.
One day, the CEO decided he wanted some publicity and proposed the media visit his local home, manufactured by the company. (Talk about spin!) Now, back in 2001, you pretty much received a directive and did your best to make his wishes come true.
I want to reiterate that my manager was a professional and had ethics.
Now, I’m going to give you a scenario and would like to know what you would do. I’ll also let you know what I did.
The CEO says he wants to prove how fabulous the homes are by inviting the media to his “open house”. As part of the PR team, you’ve alerted the media to the event and arrived early to check out the house yourself and look for anything that could go wrong.
You discover it’s what you expected. It’s never actually been lived in, despite the decorative kitchen and pair of tennis shoes next to the room that the treadmill occupies.
The PR manager knows the CEO is arriving with his wife in 30 minutes and is frantically calling all of her local media contacts, urging them to show up.
A couple of cameras arrive just before the homeowners.
What would you do?
- Smile as you stand in the background
- Help sell the media
- If the media shows up, back up the story
- Support your boss and then look for a new job
- Stand off to the side in disgust
- Other suggestions?
It’s was obviously fake, but we all went through the drill with smiles on our faces. Fortunately, the media did a brief story over some b-roll.
WHAT I DID AND WHY
My manager was (and still is) a great person, very professional, and went on to a very productive career with a Fortune 500 company. We did our job as professionals, because we are professionals. I supported my boss in every way and engaged with the media as appropriate. In addition, I wasn’t about to lose my job or let her lose hers because of an executive’s whim. Yet this experience, combined with a few others, was the final straw for me. This company was not the place for me. I continue to do my job to the best of my ability while quietly looking for a new job.
WHAT WE LEARNED
You will, at some point in your career, be asked to do something that isn’t your cup of tea. And it could be asked of you by someone above you, which usually leaves you with no choice.
Depending on the situation, you will have to make some choices. My advice to you is to have a conversation with yourself first.
Posted in Career, Communications, Life in general, Marketing Communications, PR, Work | Tagged communications, ethics, integrity, marketing, marketing communications, PR, public relations, spin | 1 Comment »
Writing that post brought back a lot memories and experiences from my 20+ years in marketing communications. I thought I’d start sharing them in the hopes that they help others as they chart their careers.
I want to be clear, my post that will be published on Spin Sucks is about being a communicator in a man’s world. This does not mean that I am bashing men in the business world. I am sharing experiences about how to be successful in those and other situations. That is the point of this post and others to come.
In addition, please keep in mind that my career started in 1994, a far cry from today – 2014.
Let’s get to it.
Like many people, I showed up to my first marketing job bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I worked in student loans. My job was to travel around the state of Florida to colleges and universities, building relationships with the financial aid departments so that they would list my bank as the preferred lender. I traveled throughout my home state, developed collateral, attended conferences…you name it, I did it – as part of a team. It was fabulous!!!
The VP of marketing was himself a young whipper-snapper who could do no wrong. Yet, he did have experience, knew the market and had good ideas, which meant there was a lot to learn from him. The manager was a strong woman who was a few years older than me, and she was in love with the VP. (Another story for another day.)
Back to the purpose of this post.
Be True To Yourself
At one of the first conferences I attended in this role, I learned that part of “entertaining clients” meant staying up half the night partying. Being in my twenties, this wasn’t an issue.
BUT! I didn’t want my career to begin as a a “party girl”. Here is what I chose to do:
- Enjoy the client dinner, getting to know my customers better
- Go to the dance club with everyone
- Leave the club between 10:30 and midnight with those clients who didn’t like to stay out late. (This made those customers happy while my colleagues stayed out late with the others.)
- Get a good night’s sleep
You don’t have to do everything the way someone else does it. Find your own way and be true to yourself.
Posted in Career, Communications, Life in general, Marketing Communications, PR, Work | Tagged business, communications, communicator, conference, marketing, marketing communications, spinsucks | 6 Comments »
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard or seen the news about the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and their owner, Donald Sterling. Sterling’s now-famous comments to his girlfriend were taped and made public. If you have not heard about it, you can catch up here.
What followed this story were more stories (and more will come as this is not over yet) about the reactions from players, the NBA, Sterling’s wife and Sterling’s continued PR fails (How do you attack Magic Johnson?).
Today, however, I discovered 32 people who like basketball, the NBA, and they are decidedly not racist.
(Disclaimer: This post is restricted to just the NBA.)
This morning I attended a presentation titled, “Meet the Young Authors”. During this presentation, 32 diverse (in culture, skin color, etc.) second graders read aloud their very own stories that each wrote and illustrated. The stories ranged from aliens to animals, from dreams to fantasy, and from superheroes to sports. In fact, several of the stories were about basketball. (One of my favorites was by a young author who had Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan dunking on each other!)
After each story was read out loud, the author then shared a few items about who they were, what they liked/didn’t like, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. And yes, each author of a basketball story included being a player in the NBA as one of their items.
But, here’s the thing: each author has a different ancestry, a different culture, a different accent, and a different skin color. Yet they all love basketball and have similar favorite players.
Oh, to be so wise as these young authors.