I have been a PR troll for exactly one year today

December 18, 2007

And I’ve learned a lot. The first six months were hellish, mostly because of a colleague who started before I did and took over my job and assigned me the worst bits of hers. Fortunately she left.  Then I spent several months all alone in the world, unloved, uncared for and uncontrolled. This was cool. Now I have a boss and FORTUNATELY she’s relaxed and calm about most things, which makes a nice change from Der Uber Stress Monkies I have worked for recently.

PR is an odd job to have. Never let it be said that corporations are more efficient than government/academia/families/cabals because frankly the one thing that happens more than anything else is that I work on projects that never see the light of day. There’s nothing like slaving over a hot keyboard month after month attending the most bowel-shrinkingly dull meetings hour after hour only to have things put on hold/dumped entirely/changed without notice. Boy, that builds great expectations for the next project you get assigned to.

Managing internal expectations is also an unexpected part of the job. They really don’t have a clue what journalists are looking for, why they write what they do or how they’re allowed to get away with the things they say. Honestly, I’m giving serious amounts of thought to buying 500 copies of Terry Pratchett’s The Truth to distribute as an Abject Lesson In How The Media Works.

Perhaps most frustratingly I find myself telling execs that particular decisions will lead to Bad Things being written in the media and so pose a risk to our reputation. This is duly ignored and when said media stories come out I’m told I should be managing the media better. “That’s your job,” is not an uncommon cry, closely followed by a strangled-sounding “NJAAAARGH” as I kick them sharply under the knee cap. It is not my job to wipe up after you make a mess. It is my job to point out that what you’re doing is messy and is likely to result in spilt milk.  FFS.

Worse than that, of course, is when I point out a tremendously nasty Red Flag, Push the Button, Send in the Marines kind of issue which doesn’t get picked up by the media. Then I look like a doofus and the execs smile smugly and point out that clearly they can do my job better than I can but never mind, they’ll keep me round like a pet rat for amusement sake, run on your treadmill rat boy, run, run, faster!

But I’ve got a couple of runs on the board and occasionally they do listen before making monumental decisions.  That’s reassuring. And they mean well which is also a good thing. I couldn’t have given up my beloved journalism for just any company and these guys had better not disappoint me because the first time they do will be the last.

Oh and the money’s good. Did I mention that? Not to rub it in, fellow journos, but they offer me a bonus each year and it’s not “You can keep your job, that should be bonus enough now get back to work and stop complaining” but actual hard earned cash. You’ve got to like that.


4 Responses to “I have been a PR troll for exactly one year today”

  1. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Bonus. Wow! Best thing I get is the end of year client gift of liquorice allsorts which are duly shared through the whole outfit. Not that I am complaining, but money could by many liquorice allsorts.

    Pratchett as a guide to the real World, hmmm, an unusual tactic I would have thought. And unless you got a discount, 500 copies would be in the area of $20,000. They must pay you alot…

    As for managing the media. I can tell you that historically the best way to manage the media is buy it, or set up the competition. That is how the “Dominion” (Wellington, N.Z.) among others came into existance. Has your company considered this option? You could be the editor, like J. Jonah Jameson!

  2. audent Says:

    Sadly, vanity publishing is one of the few areas of growth in NZ publishing these days. Idealog, magazine of the new economy, was originally sponsored by Telecom, Microsoft and AUT and wouldn’t have appeared without corporate “support”. It makes my teeth ache that that’s how newspapers/magazines think the world is turning when clearly the readers are going where the content is – and that’s online.

    that’s probably another blogging though.

  3. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    We have different definitions of “vanity publishing”. The way you use the term it seems to indicate self-published, but publicly distanced, advertising disguised as independent journalism. You’re right, the influence of this in politics and social debate is a particular peeve of mine.

    “Vanity publishing” in my line of work is a term we use for those individuals, who having discovered no publisher interested in printing their turgid nonsense or unreadable doggerel, pay for a printer to do it, and then demand that it is taken seriously. Anyone who doesn’t take it seriously simply doesn’t have the prerequisite taste to recognise genius.

    Frequently, the first sign of a self-righteous, and to a degree unhinged, nutter is the individual’s belief in their artistic powers, which are sadly unappreciated. Be warned.

  4. audent Says:

    I think your last par describes some of my vanity publishers quite nicely thank you!

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