PR Professionals: Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Let’s play a game that I like to call “Business Executive or Bride?” I’ll describe an outlandish request, and you can guess which person was behind it.

“You need to be dancing even when other people aren’t dancing.”

“Keep an eye on that photographer. He looks like he’s going to throw up.”

“Could you address these envelopes? You have the nicest handwriting.”

“Is there any orange juice?”

If you work in PR, you probably won’t be that surprised to learn that all but the last request were made in a professional setting. As much as I like to pride myself on having 10 years of hard-earned experience, sometimes my only job is to play a dance video game for the better part of three hours at a “Gamification of Health” event – which wouldn’t have been so bad except that my manager insisted on announcing my low scores over a megaphone.

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PR: No job too big or small

The role of the public relations professional has turned into a bit of a catch-all in recent years. While our main priorities continue to be providing strategic communications counsel and generating positive media coverage, our responsibilities have expanded to include so much more: managing social media, writing speeches, planning events and, occasionally, finding a postage stamp in a hotel ballroom in Chicago.

For better or for worse, all of these tasks are created equal. Staffing a welcome table and taking elaborate coffee orders are every bit as important as arranging top-tier interviews or drafting talking points. If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when you bring an executive a whole milk latte when she asked for skim. A botched coffee order can derail the day – I learned that the hard way.

The bottom line: a good PR professional gets things done, no matter how big or small the task may be.

PR: The training ground for bridesmaids

Bridesmaids in PR

My experience – particularly as it relates to staffing events and supporting the executives who host them – has benefited an unlikely group in my personal life: brides. There is hardly a shower, bachelorette party or wedding that goes by that I don’t draw on my professional experience to help ensure the day runs smoothly.

Make no mistake, my fellow bridal party members – regardless of their occupation – can bobby pin a veil and find a pair of flats just as well as anyone. But I would argue that PR professionals are accustomed to providing a level of service that many brides would find helpful during The Big Day.

Think of it this way: If you’ve worked in PR, chances are you’ve assembled 500 attendee welcome kits at midnight, which means you’ll think nothing of wrapping 20 houseplants in cellophane one Saturday morning in the name of centerpieces.

You’ve also probably had to catch a cab while carrying a box of briefing books and at least one easel, so transporting a cheese plate in a mini cooler by bus to a bridal shower won’t seem like much of a hassle.

And after spending the better part of a day asking complete strangers to interview your clients about topics that are, admittedly, not that interesting, trying to talk your way into a club during a bachelorette party isn’t so daunting.

In truth, the only real job a PR professional has is to make someone else shine. We are essentially on bridesmaid duty for every event, speech and interview – helping primp and prep and make sure all the details are in order before someone else takes the stage.

Perhaps there’s not much glamour in playing a supporting role personally or professionally – though most of us accept it as part of the job and have even come to enjoy the challenge. Either way, it’s best if you keep dancing through it.

Nova Halliwell is a public relations professional living in New York City. You can follow her at www.adviceicouldhaveusedyesterday.com and @adviceineeded. Want to read more from Nova? Click here.

Featured Image: outreachr.com (Creative Commons)