You know you’re in PR when…

…yes yes, I know what you’re expecting… the sleepless nights, the living by your Crackberry, the client slavery etc etc. I’ve had some of those myself in the last 10 years at Text 100 (my first and only real job!). But somehow, the things that stayed with me are the more unusual ones… they’re the things that become little comic strips in my head!

So here is my list of…. wait for it… YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN PR WHEN

1.       You’ve made toilet signage for an event: I’ve done this… and subsequently been yelled at by the corporate communications head about why the font size wasn’t big enough or the arrow was pointing in the wrong direction. My sense of direction was always pretty lousy but I didn’t think I’d need it to be able to get ahead in PR. Clearly, I did! My manager at the time momentously stated at that event, “you know, we’re a part of making history”(we were launching one of India’s largest cellular brands). Somehow when you’re busy doing toilet direction signs, it doesn’t feel that momentous!

2.       You’ve been a messenger/ delivery girl/ boy: This has so many facets to it, it isn’t even funny! You’ve probably delivered review products yourself and called it a media round to not make it seem like you were a glorified courier. You’ve probably gone to various media houses on foot delivering hard copies of invites and registration sheets before a major industry event only to be told that the journalist was busy and to leave it at the reception. Hell, you’ve probably sat with the office boy filling out courier counterfoils to mass mail those same hard copy invites!

Anyone else done this? No? Only me then…!

3.       You’ve checked out several venues for a single event: This seems relatively straightforward and we do it today too… but I think it’s only in very few cases when you do a venue recce for a large event only to make sure that there was a secret exit for the CEO who didn’t want to be questioned about his company’s impending sell off!

4.       You’ve been a manual labourer at some point:  At the same ‘historic’ event I spoke of in point 1, I was also part time manual labourer or ‘hamaal’. We were trudging across a massive campus throughout the day carting media, press kits and boxes of sundry press conference paraphernalia from the main hall to media centre. I’ve had one such box collapse in my hands with its contents strewn for about a 3ft radius around me. Luckily my damsel in distress act paid off when an executive in a suit passed by and asked some construction workers to give me a hand. My male colleague was not that lucky when he managed to bust the next carton!

5.       You’ve fixed a spokesperson’s tie before an interview: Ok, so I admit haven’t personally done this but I know colleagues who have! But I have run around to find him a bottle of water, ordered his coffee or then run behind him at an event, press kits and sundry documents in hand.

6.       You’ve gone in for a high profile interview relatively clueless about more things than one: I once did this interview with the India CEO of a major client with a Financial Times journalist. It was at a Chinese restaurant in one of the city’s five star hotels and they ordered appetizers that both gentlemen went on to gingerly eat with chopsticks. I had no idea (and still don’t) how to eat with chopsticks but was faced with the dilemma of looking foolish if I picked up a fork! I inconspicuously messaged my manager at the time telling her how stupid I felt… her reply: “better to look stupid with a fork than look stupid with food all over your clothes”. This should have been the least of my problems given that the men were discussing world economics that I didn’t have a clue about and had no idea what I would put in the debrief document!

I’ve you’ve managed to read through this post and you’ve been around the block a few times, then I bet you’re nodding your head knowingly. Possibly even chuckling quietly at the stranger things you’ve done. But if you’re a newbie, a lot of this might seem alien to you. But the important thing here is that no job was or is ever too small when it was crunch time and I don’t think I’d be the PR person that I am today if I hadn’t done all this myself! To this day, I’m awkward about letting my driver pick up my bags but you should know that there will be times when you’re picking up someone else’s proverbial bags. While it may seem menial at the time, and forgive the cliché, these things really do build character.

So if you’re an account coordinator in the Mumbai office and have been interviewed by me, I probably tried to scare you at some point about the drudgery your life will be initially. If you made it through that first year, then I’d say you made it. Period. If you quit because you hated making media lists or following up on press releases you had no clue about, then you missed all the fun stuff that was yet to come.

Drop me a comment if you have a strange story to share, can relate to this post or generally have questions about why I did what I did, happily.

The author is Jain… Shahnaz K. Jain! Licensed to thrill @ Text 100 (Mumbai).