Today I had a chat with a very wise lady who pointed out that I need to stop ‘apologising’ for being a Mum and start focusing on the value I bring to the workplace (well, WILL bring soon)…. And you know what, she was so very right. It got me thinking about how, in actual fact, PR prepared me well for having three kids at home and how dealing with three kids over the past year has prepared me for agency life again. Why, I hear you ask?
- That feeling of pure elation you get when you hear you won a new business pitch. All the blood, sweat, tears, long hours and all-nighters and people shouting in your actual face…. it was all worth it because you f*cking won. A couple of days later the cold hard reality of actually having to work on a new piece of business when you’re already under-staffed hits you like a double decker bus rampaging through Walford market. Yep – that’s what it’s like giving birth; lots of blood, sweat, tears, hours of working really hard to push out a small human…..all worth it when you see their tiny scrunched up faces. And then the cold, hard reality hits and you realise that was in fact just the beginning, the easy bit really. The hard bit is actually having to care for the small humans on a daily basis for the Rest. Of. Your. Life.
- Dealing with crying babies at 2am, then at 2.40am, then 3.10am and so on. It’s ok – I went to a plethora of Christmas parties where the entire agency got to stay over in a hotel with free drinks all night but not a smidgeon of food in sight. Yep, crying babies at home ain’t got nothing on that shiz
- Briefing the creative department to come up with a big idea, being told to buy a billboard and have some D-lister bungee jump off it and then trying to explain why that won’t work in a calm, grown up way whilst the creatives refuse to make eye contact with you, speak to you or indeed help you (actually help themselves) by providing maybe just one alternative idea. Thankfully, of course, this NEVER happened to me, just some ‘friends’ of mine. Nevertheless, it is perfect in educating oneself on how to deal with tantrum-ing toddlers, screaming babies and huffy-puffy tweens all at the same time. Patience, placation and balls of freaking steel are what’s needed.
- Speaking of tantrum-ing toddlers, it reminds me of the way in which parents have to remain dignified when in a public place with a screaming banshee yet all the while being some sort of ventriloquist who *looks* like they’re smiling whilst whispering “When we get home, I am going to feed to the urban foxes”. This is rather similar to the way that, when attending large-scale media events, you need to always be smiling at your clients even if you’re whispering to your boss “I sent Beyonce’s glam squad up in a lift and now I don’t know where they are and my mobile’s not working and I don’t have an AAA pass because there weren’t any left so now I can’t go and find them and my life is basically over……”, whilst your boss smiles and whispers back “just smile and nod….smile and nod” (You know who you are!)
- Team management: it’s always important in agency life to ensure your team members are motivated and understand that if they do good work they’ll move up the ranks. I caught my 7 year old saying to the baby “Am I going to have to speak to Mummy about your bad behaviour? You are not supposed to eat crayons. You do know that because I told you yesterday”. This made me very happy. She has clearly understood the parameters within which she needs to operate in order to become my deputy in the running of Team Saul should I for any reason not be ‘at my desk’ (aka the kitchen) due to needing a loo break.
- Influencers are everything. There’s the social media influencers. There’s the key opinion formers. There’s the celebrities. There’s the advocates. And so the list goes on (print journalists – sorry for omitting you but, well, you’re just not as influential as you used to be). Understanding how to make friends and influence people has stood me in pretty good stead for dealing with school bullies (kill them with kindness), the PTA (kill them with kindness), school gate mums (kill them with kindness), teachers (kill them with kindness), the caretaker (slip him a tenner every now and then). You see, it’s all about personalised interaction- understanding what’s really going to make them tick so that they are friends with you and by default your brand (in this case, your kids)
- Celebrity management. Ah now, this is a good one. Some slebs are obviously just really nice, good, down to earth people (in my experience, I’d say usually the A-listers). Then there are those slebs who, for example, didn’t realise they needed to dress warmly despite performing on an ice rink….or those slebs who refuse to share a backstage area with a well-known boyband…..or those slebs who are so incredibly rude and sleazy that you have to take the client out of the room and explain to them that the reason you’re sitting on your hands is because it’s the only thing you can do to stop yourself from punching the ‘celebrity’….the list goes on. This has prepared me very well indeed for playdates. After all, not all kids are the same. Some are super polite, down to earth, respectful. Others, however, are pretty silly – for example, not realising they needed to pull their knickers down before going for a wee. Some are rude “wow your house is a mess” and some display what can only be described as wholly unacceptable behaviour. Dealing with slebs and their egos is in fact very similar to dealing with small children and their lack of social graces. Most of the time you let it slip. But every now and again you have to glare at a child for a prolonged period of time until they realise that they really shouldn’t be messing with you.
- Positioning. It’s everything really. From how to ‘sell in a story’ to journalists, to how you present your campaign results back to a client. Good positioning is key. Same goes for meal times with fussy eaters. “I mean it’s up to you, but if you want to do well in your spellings I suggest you eat your salmon because it’s good for your brain”; “It’s a shame you don’t like spinach because I read that ballerinas eat a lot of it to be able to pirouette so well”; “what do you mean you don’t like Indian food? You’re Indian for God’s sake” (Ok so that’s not strictly a good example but you catch my drift)
- Tone of voice. My kids know that if I whisper very, very quietly and slowly that the proverbial is about to hit the fan.
And that’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it? The transferable skills of PR and parenting: dealing with tantrums, attempting to reason with unreasonable people, trying to teach small(er) humans right from wrong and, in extreme cases, stopping the shit from hitting the fan (and/ or your light grey carpet).