Thursday June 06, 2013 | 09:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

About a week or so ago I was talking with a colleague. Like me, she is a marketing communications professional who uses social media in her work and personal life. We were commiserating about some common misperceptions people have about our jobs and she suggested that I write a post about it. At first, I dismissed the idea because I didn't want to come across as whiny. Then yesterday, I realized that I whine about stuff at least once or twice a month, so why not start off June with a bang? Or a whine, as one might say?

Intensifying the thrill of this topic is the fact that I generally describe myself as a PR professional. On good days anyway. And, there are TONS of misperceptions about that job title too. And, that just might be the biggest understatement of Q1 & Q2.

So, here we go ... please forgive the whining and allow me to step up to my bully pulpit.

1. Working at a PR agency is not like being on the show Absolutely Fabulous (see photo above). At all. I worked in London in the nineties. Trust me.

2. We don't "play" on social media all day. It takes many hours engaging your customers/influencers (usually on both nights and weekends) with great original and aggregated content, all as part of an overall marketing strategy, in order to develop a strong following. As with most things in life, if you want instant popularity (aka a large following), then prepare to give away a lot of easy money or free food. Preferably both. Otherwise, prepare for some hard work. 

3. Mascot suits are disgusting. I mean, think about it? Each suit has been worn by legions of sweaty PR types. Also, kids are tough customers. They're either terrified of you or they want to kick you. Not fun. If you'd like a full reporting of my career as a mascot please feel free to be in touch.

4.MY IPHONE - People often comment that I seem glued to my iPhone at social events. The fact is, I am glued to my iPhone at most times during the work week due to my chosen profession (please note the proximity of my iPhone to my sleeping form in the photo above—taken c.1970). If you happen to see me at a social event in this gluey iPhone state, it's probably because I'm dealing with a "very serious issue" (likely involving a mascot) -or- because I've been crippled with social anxiety and need an excuse not to talk to anyone. Whatever the case may be, please feel free to talk to me. I'll likely welcome the conversation. And, then I'll publicly tweet everything you say to me. That was a joke. I'm a PR person, not a journalist. It's my job to make people look good. 

5. We don't "tell" journalists what to write and we can't ultimately control the outcome of a story. Anyone who claims otherwise probably isn't to be trusted. Or, works for the CIA. Assume the former.

6. Google+ is looking really good these days. I'm becoming a convert. (TRUTH)

7. "We need a press release and a Facebook page." This is not a marketing strategy. If this is your company's first foray into PR/social media, this is probably not the first step. I recommend talking with a skilled PR practitioner who is actively engaged with social media and has a proven track record. The same answer would be appropriate to the statement, "we need to be on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc." Why why why? Maybe maybe but why? Good Lord, I sound like Taylor Swift. Help me.

8. "Big ideas" cost money. We don't like to be expected to give them out for free over a coffee date where you want to "pick our brains." Which, BTW,  is a repulsive idiom—brainpicking?—but that's another story for another day.

9. You should love what you do. If you think social media is "stupid" or a "waste of time," you shouldn't use it. Your best option as a business is to find a skilled professional to do it for you. Preferably someone you trust with a proven track record. (TRUTH)

10. Working in PR/social media is not glamorous. Anyone who makes it look glamorous, via social media or otherwise, is doing a great job. 

11. The real truth about my career in PR/social media is that I feel incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with too many smart people (both clients and co-workers) to count, travel to many exciting places and witness many exciting events and moments in history. If I could do it all over again, I would. I have absolutely no regrets about my career (minus a few of the mascot costumes). (TRUTH)

Image Credit One: BBC One - Absolutely Fabulous

Image Credit Two: Olympic Mascots Atlanta 1996 Izzy Steve Jones Show

Image Credit Three: Rob Gould sleeping by Dallas James


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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