Today marks my first six months as a PR manager and working at Stratworks. I felt rather silly today as I went around the office telling people that today was my sixth “monthsary” there, but I wanted to celebrate it– I couldn’t help it– mainly because I never thought I would get to make it to this point and still be happy at my job (or still have a job!).
See, even if people have been telling me to get into PR even years before, I never thought my career path would lead me here. I thought God and I had an understanding. Four years ago, when I was asked at my job interview (for managing editor of Metro Society) what I saw myself doing in five years, without any hesitation, I replied that I would be an editor-in-chief of my own magazine. Last year, I thought I was right on track until my career trajectory dramatically veered off to another direction and I found myself at the other end of the media spectrum–in PR!
I have to admit, I still sometimes ask God, “What am I doing here?!” I had nothing to do with this! All I did was give them my resume and show up at the interviews! After Donna, the managing director of Stratworks (whom I have grown to admire and adore), made me PR manager after my second interview and left me alone in the conference room for a few minutes so she and the HR could discuss their offer, I just dropped my forehead to the table with a bonk and prayed, “Lord, You brought me here. All I had to do was show up. I have no idea what and how I’m going to do this job, but since You’re the one who led me here, I’m expecting that You’ll also help me figure it out. I know I can’t do this–not on my own– but for some reason, You think I can, so… I’m just going to take Your word for it.”
So, slowly I made my way through the unfamiliar world of being in a PR agency. My friends from the magazines would sometimes kid me about how i’m “so PR now,” but I would always tell them that it’s so much work! I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard on a daily basis on one thing in my whole career! It’s like closing 10 magazines every day most of the time and I’m always amazed when things actually pull through.
I had never really appreciated PR people before when I was an editor. They were the people who always bugged us about our confirmations for various events that I couldn’t even feature in my publications; the invisible people who would send me gifts and leave piles of press releases on my table; they’re the ones who worry for me whenever I go on press junkets, and made sure I have vegan food and a ride home. Sometimes I ignored them, got annoyed with them, or just took them for granted. Some of them became my friends because they’re just so easy to be with.
And now, I’m one of them (And, there’s never a day that I wouldn’t be sorry for all those times I’ve been mean (even if not on purpose) to PR people before! Lord! If ever I become an editor again in the future, I will ALWAYS be nice to PR! I will always RSVP to invitations! I will use the stories that they give me whenever I can and it fits in my magazine!). I’m always amazed at how my colleagues could manage to do everything that needs to be done, and at the same time be nice and make sure people are happy. PR, after all, is the business of making everybody happy– from the clients to the people in the media.
Because of this, I find that it’s such a humbling job. Most of the time I feel like I have only 40% control over the outcome of the project because so much depends on the good will of other people. I learned to watch what I say to and about other people, to “keep my nose clean” as Mark, my PR Director, would always remind me. While we do give gifts, favor can’t be bought, it can only be won. It’s all about relationships, and these things take time, intention, and consistency.
I love watching my bosses and colleagues work. It’s such an education watching Mark and the rest of the PR team solve problems and interact with editors, reporters, cameramen, photographers, and even difficult clients. The writers work so fast and produce such great ideas from who-knows-where. Meetings with our strategic director always feels like being back in one of my favorite classes in college again. Our accounts people work so hard keeping everything in order for the clients and for us. The events and creatives group stay up all night setting up events and packing up after. Donna, even if she is everybody’s boss, still helps out in pitches and presentations– and whenever we’re stuck at something. What I love the most is how my bosses would always insist on keeping our integrity– even at the cost of other things.
I always tell people that being a PR manager is character-building for me. I’m not used to asking for help from other people, if I can do it myself. But being new to the business, there’s still so many things that I’m still learning. There’s still so much that I don’t know in this job that I have to learn to work and ask for help from other people who know more and have been doing this longer than me. I still make a lot of mistakes (although I’d like to believe I make less of them by now– or at least different mistakes to learn from). I still need to work faster. Sometimes I want to beat myself up over my shortcomings, but there’s just no time to wallow, not when so many things still need to be done– and besides, my boss won’t let me do it.
I’m glad that I ended up in Stratworks, out of all the agencies, for my first foray into this side of the industry. The work may get toxic at times, but the company doesn’t. The people here–while far from perfect–are like family. We all pitch in to help each other (even as we are assigned our own tasks and accounts). Whenever mistakes are made, the bosses and people don’t waste time blaming each other, but instead put the effort in fixing it. In a way, it reminds me of the “truth and love” operation of Jesus, how He did not hesitate pointing out what’s wrong, but He never condemned you for it. Instead of condemnation, He gives grace and strength to make things right. (This isn’t to say that we don’t get mad/exasperated/impatient at each other… it’s still a real world workplace after all.)
I once half-jokingly told an editor, who was telling me about an opportunity to get back to editorial, that my boss gives me free haircuts and hair treatments at her uber posh salon– how can I leave her company after that?! But really, beyond the Monday breakfast buffets, the out-of-country company outings, company bowling tournaments, chillouts and fun staff meetings– I feel valued here. And because I feel valued, the mountain of work becomes less of a burden, but more of an opportunity to show my appreciation for my bosses and colleagues (well, ok… not all the time–but always after the fact. hehe).
Don’t get me wrong. I still do get stressed (I think my friends and family could see that), I don’t like missing time with my friends and family, but it’s a different kind of stress that I often get a certain high from. It’s rather exhilarating sometimes, watching everything that you’ve pitched and worked hard for come together. I’m always happy to see people come to the events we invite them to. Sometimes, especially when the event is already close, every RSVP is always received with a whispered prayer of gratefulness (I am not exaggerating!). Each pickup is like a small miracle that needs to consistently happen again and again.
I’m sorry if I sound like I’m gushing (and trying really hard to get on the good side of my boss who have yet to evaluate me *cringe*), but I can’t help it. I’m happy in my job. I’m glad to be where I am right now, even as I have no idea what’s in store for me in the future here in this agency and in this industry. I am far from being adept (I hated filling up my self-evaluation form because I could see that even I’m not impressed by my performance so far), but I am learning. I’m just so grateful to my bosses and colleagues who are so patient with me. God bless Stratworks.
I could be singing a different tune tomorrow, or next week or next month. But here’s what I do know: the same God who has brought me here thus far, will continue to be faithful, so I don’t have to worry.
So, once again, here, by the grace of God, stands Stef, a PR manager. Let’s see what happens next.