Friday, July 21, 2017

My (Three-month) Life in PR, Part 3: I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Now, it’s hard to determine just how much trepidation I had going into my new PR job after Thanksgiving. I know there were nagging worries about things like “stepping outside my comfort zone” and maybe even “ learning things” and “sitting at desk all day without vague excuses to leave.” But hey, I was going to be making some money and mostly doing things like writing, which I was fairly certain I had done before. Mostly my attitude was good going in. Well, there was the bit about the offer letter. Apparently, the owner was really goddamned serious about me mailing back the offer letter asap. Because it was a legally binding document which would hold my soul in the depths of PR purgatory? Perhaps. But paperwork has never been my strong suit. This would probably be a recurring problem, given the amount of busywork I’d be given. But really, I mailed the damn offer letter. It’s own its way. Chill out random art collector lady.

But I make it to Day One, offer letter delivered in time to make things official, with some modicum of enthusiasm. I get introduced to the few people who work in the office, the rest work from home and I’ll meet them later, get the typical email setup password here’s how to turn on the computer deal. I’ve made it one hour in with no major damage to my psyche. This is about as good as it would get. From this point on, the rest of the day is warning signs with all the subtlety of those “Use you-ah blinka”  LED signs the MassDOT puts up and down the Pike.

First, there was the employee handbook. Honestly, there’s a lot I skimmed. It’s an employee handbook, after all, it’s like reading through the licensing agreement for iTunes. They could be telling you that Apple is owed one kidney every time you press play on the abomination that is Piano Man, but you would never know it. Scroll through and click yes. Flip through the pages of the employee handbook and sign and date the back page. But all always make a pitstop at the dress code section. This is shit that impacts my life! Jean/no jeans? How much ironing should I plan on doing? Ties? Dress down Friday? It was nothing surprising, clean, neat, no jeans except for Fridays, collared shirts, no exposed piercings or tattoos. Hold on. No exposed tattoos? It’s not like I’m Dave Navarro hosting InkMania Tattoo Challenge World or whatever, but unless I’ve got on longsleeves buttoned up, I have a little ink showing. Is this the hill I want to die on on the first day? Hey look, exactly how serious are you about this one part of the handbook I bothered to read? Is this an only when I go out to visit clients thing? Does it matter that the tattoo on my forearm is of my daughter’s birthdate and an adorable, preschool looking whale? Exactly how much botox have you been taking for your lips (possibly unrelated to the issue at hand, but also hard to ignore). For the time being, I would let this one pass and wear the long sleeves.

More troubling was the handy primer I was given by the employee who sat in the front room of the mansion/office with me, highlighting the things I should know at the job. After beginning to read this, I immediately become nauseous, my heart sinks, and all the other cliches signifying “what the fuck have I gotten myself into” hit me at once. The first nine pages of the everything you need to know to succeed at W____ C_____ primer focuses on such important pieces of PR knowledge as: What types of flights to book the owner on (First class, but always look for a deal), what limo company to hire to pick said owner up to take her to the airport, various tidbits about airline and train transport for the company’s vice presidents (in addition to the owner/president, there are three VPs for a company that tops out at nine employees, this will not go unremarked upon in future installments), what types of salads to order for staff meetings, what types of sandwiches to order for staff meetings, how many bottles of flavored water to pick up when you go pick up said salad and sandwich orders for the staff meetings.

By the time I get to the sections of the primer that are specific, and specifically boring as to actual PR things which I will actually be doing and hating in the future, I am already coming to the realization that I have made a huge mistake. I’ve come from the world of the newspaperman and newspaperwoman where we might not make enough money to pay all the rent, every month, but goddamn if we have ever had to buy our bosses a frighteningly specific salad. We have our standards, dammit.

Later in the day, I meet with the owner to discover which PR accounts I will be working on. Keep in mind, I have spent the past two decades covering ZBA and School Board meetings, and, if not exactly enjoying them, at least appreciating them on a certain municipal level that most of society may not quite cotton to as a form of entertainment. But here is a sampling of companies I will be working on accounts for: truck tires, but not just any truck tires, mostly forklift tires; data conversion, which consists of turning text into other text, maybe, for the computers? And window film, which is a thin covering that keeps out light in car and house windows. Now you know everything you need to know about window film. But there is a monthly newsletter for this shit, the window film beast must be constantly fed, and it will be my job to feed it. There are other accounts, almost as thrill-a-minute as these. All these accounts are overseen by one of the three vice presidents, who don’t really coordinate with each other as to giving a shit about what you are working on outside of their accounts. I haven’t met them yet. I will.

Good lord, I go home praying maybe it’s not as bad as it all seems, maybe window film has hidden depths that are at least as exciting as a good fight over raising school lunch prices by a nickel versus a dime.

Day one in the books, Leslie asks me how it went.

Next up, Part 4: Struggling to find ways to make crippling depression and ulcers humorous


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