About three weeks into my first class as an advertising major I realized that would never be my path. I knew I wanted a job in a creative industry, but I had no clue what that looked like, so at the super annoying urging of my mother, I half-heartedly signed on to journalism.
I was soon delighted to find that every single class spoke to my soul.
I embraced my fellow journos in broadcast and print, but we also mixed with the public relations crew.
My only real memory of that is a gorgeous Tri-Delt rolling her eyes when our reporting professor told the class that 75 percent of PR hinges on good writing.
I think I dismissed the PR majors as glorified party planners, and I remember taking a haughty holierthan-thou attitude about my path to social justice.
So it’s funny that along my journey to journalism nirvana I would cross over briefly into the dark side of PR.
I only worked in newspaper for a year or so before switching full time to the magazine world. For someone who was high-and-mighty about fluffy career choices, I sure did sink into the role of fluffy feature writing pretty easily.
When my babies were born I eased off the throttle and freelanced while I was elbow-deep in Play- Do, fingerpaints and the important work of motherhood. But when my youngest was in her senior year of preschool, I put out into the universe that it might be time to get back to a full-time gig.
The universe just so happened to have one at-the-ready, and before I knew what happened I was fixing my makeup before an interview with a PR firm in the swanky part of town. All I had to offer in the interview were my writing clips. I had zero experience with party planning. But as it turns out, there’s very little party planning involved in PR. Fifty percent is writing, and the other 50 is who you know.
I was hired as a part-time publicist on the spot, and I faked my way through the first day asking questions like, “What elements do you look for in a pitch at this particular firm?” instead of asking the real question, “What on earth is a pitch?”
When I got a late-night call from the boss on day two, I knew it was because I was fired. By some miracle though, not only was I not fired, she was asking me to come on full time.
Turns out the other part-time publicist brought in Starbucks and a seashell picture frame with a photo of her daughter. That was apparently “not on brand,” and she was fired.
The PR world was amazingly glam. There were lots of functions and affairs rubbing elbows with the upper echelon. But there were a lot of soul-sucking down sides.
For one, although I worked in restaurant PR, I was always starving. Looking through food photos all day left no time for lunch. I got lots of compliments on my weight loss.
The other downside is that every connection I made in that world felt fake. No one in that arena seemed to form actual relationships with each other. It was all about collecting realworld followers and likes, like some sort of hellish live-action Instagram. Every person in my phone felt like a simulation I was supposed to take out and play like a Pokemon card in some bizarre game that no one really won.
Still when I stumbled back into journalism I was a little apprehensive to leave that world be-hind. For all its faults, it was fun to drink cocktails for my job. My social media life was a thing of beauty, and I got to meet a lot of influential people.
But now that I’m back in my happy place I feel at home. I still get to meet influential people, and I have interviewed a few of them over cocktails. But I’m not beholden to them.
My connections now can be authentic, and I don’t have to worry about losing a source because I don’t have enough social clout to offer them.
But possibly the best part of all is that I’ve now had Mary’s Tacos more times than I can count, and I haven’t taken a single picture for the ‘gram.