In my very first PR job, my boss told me:“ There are a lot of busy fools in this world; don’t be one of them.” More than ten years on, it still resonates with me. No matter how much is on my to do list, screaming urgent, or how many directions I’m pulled in, my inner monologue always says: “ Don’t be a busy fool; think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
This is why I find the WIPR Mentoring Programme so valuable and insightful. Having recently become a mother, bought a house and renovated it, not to mention moving to a new company to work in a completely different sector, the plate spinning-come-juggling routine became all encompassing. I was finding it very difficult to poke my head out of the circus tent to actually realise where I was or, more importantly, where I was going next in my career.
I have been fortunate enough to have Shelley Facius as my mentor. Our regular meetings have given me the objectivity and distance I need to truly analyse my position and look ahead towards my long-term career progression. This is something a sponsor within your own company, is unable or unwilling to do. Even before we had officially met, I was calling Shelley for objective advice and reassurance regarding significant career choices. We now meet every six weeks and discuss everything from new business techniques and industry trends, to trouble-shooting any issues I may have.
When I attended the WIPR event Why Women Need a Career Sponsor And a Mentor in September this year, panellist Deborah Saw suggested that women can be over-mentored and under-sponsored. While I do agree this is the case for the majority, I have always benefited from sponsors who, being placed within the same company as myself, have helped me to progress within a firm.
Mentors certainly provide independent advice, however the process is also a great opportunity to share industry best practice. Most PRs, especially agency-side, only get to interact at awards, events or during the obligatory pre/post pitch reception stand-off. This initiative has therefore been a fantastic opportunity for me to wave an olive branch and meet with peers on both a professional and personal level.
Even while I’m writing this, on the eve of the WIPR Christmas drinks party, I’m arranging to meet up with fellow mentees, many of whom would be considered ‘arch-rivals’ in agency terms! But through the WIPR initiative, we are all comrades in arms, sharing our highs, lows and ambitions. In fact, I would argue that our industry would be all the better if we were able to do this more often.
Today’s digital deluge and the spotlight on the industry’s ethical barometer have created a climate which begs for more open discussion about experiences and ideas. This practice can, undoubtedly, only make us better communicators. We need to ensure that we’re not simply focusing on innovation within communication, but rather doing so in a manner which is morally responsible. PR has often been depicted as ‘spin’, or a ‘dark art’ but as we have seen, this is not what companies are (publically) looking for or what the general public or lawmakers will condone.
What form our industry will morph into is yet to be seen, but in an era of fake news, over-worked and under-paid journalists, as well as consumer content fatigue, I would hope that we will become a trusted beacon of knowledge and creativity. Indeed, this might be too much of a stretch – my husband keeps reminding me that I’m a relentlessly positive person! But the closer we get to that goal, the better.