Hell, we can’t even agree what we do.
Okay, raise your hand if during a Thanksgiving dinner, this has happened…
You grow weary, like near clutching the dusty bottle of formerly nice alcohol to what has to be paint thinner now, because you made the mistake of trying to explain what you do for a living. The questions are overbearing, nonsensical, and borderline WTF. Even your own mother can’t figure it out. So, you dig in fighting the good fight, and say the following words we have all said out of frustration:
“I get people on TV.”
Oooooooooooooooooooooooh! The room nods in agreement and you rush for the bathroom, if anything, just for some well-deserved “me time.” And that’s why these ridiculous stereotypes exist.
1. We are “Spin Doctors.” It was October 1984 and there was a little political thing happening in the country — Reagan V. Mondale. The New York Times were scampering about trying to decide what in the hell to call the people that were helping the presidential candidates position their views to the country. This opinion piece was published and the term was born, set to plague this industry into perpetuity.
“A dozen men in good suits and women in silk dresses will circulate smoothly among the reporters, spouting confident opinions. They won’t be just press agents trying to impart a favorable spin to a routine release. They’ll be the Spin Doctors, senior advisers to the candidates.”
There you have it, kids. Why we are called what we are, you know, instead of other things behind our backs. A few years earlier, in 1978, the Guardian Weekly determined politics was akin to knitting a sweater when the writer concocted this term of endearment:
“The CIA can be an excellent source [of information], though, like every other, its offerings must be weighed for factuality and spin.”
This comes for the Molly Homemaker phraseology “spinning a yarn,” or to help daily tasks seem much more or less than they really are. History class is over. Moving on.
2. We are all “good writers.” I refuse to name names, but hell-to-the-no. Sure, it is helpful to be able to write a sentence that your fifth-grade teacher would be pleased to diagram, but that is seldom the case. You would think they would teach AP-style advocacy in college, but thanks to text message lingo breaking out in conversation, that’s a pipe dream. I don’t understand why some folk think that, if you have ever read the bulletin boards lately in break rooms lately. Press releases, email pitches, and the infrequent (thank God) eVite populate media bulletin boards for one reason only — bad writing is a journalist’s funny button.
3. We are all chicks. Okay, okay. I’ve been doing this for (COUGH) years and I have discovered one irrefutable fact — yeah, we are mostly chicks. Take a gander at my lovely place of flackdom and tell me what stands out in this Glamour Shots list. One ugly dude, that’s it. And it’s usually like that among the minions in PR. The folk in the C-suites at the big agencies tend to be a different shade of pale and an entirely different post on gender equality (note to self). Remember that team with the one ugly dude? Ask me if I care about this stereotype. Nah!
4. We are all democrats. I can’t tell you how many times this gets presumed by people I know when I tell them what I do for a living. To be fair and squash the rumor mill, I don’t vote at primaries because my card gets stamped, that’s how much of a raging independent I am (if you care, ask). Now then, I don’t understand the origin for this stereotype. I do agree that PR tends to lean left but I don’t understand why. If you walk through any agency cube farm, you will find centrists, GOP fandom, and even the occasional anarchist. PR is very diverse among ideologues, which makes this industry so rewarding and full of various points of view.
5. We are all outgoing. This would shock you with the power of a bazooka used to stop an elephant in its tracks (pun slightly intended from No. 4). You ever heard of the football player who is a complete gentleman and wouldn’t hurt a fly, until they get on the gridiron where the transform into a KickassBot. One of my most stellar mentees in PR is a complete introvert. She hates being in social settings and isn’t a big fan of being introduced much either. However, she has serious chops in writing and will pitch an ice cream truck to Anchorage Daily News, and get it on the front page. There’s one like that in every agency, you know, hiding in the corner somewhere behind a potted plant.