Everyone talks about how tricky it can be to get a job in PR and the various ways to get your foot in the door, but perhaps we should have just as much discussion on how to keep the job once you actually get it. So you've gone to Uni, studied PR, done some work experience, completed an internship, and scored a job - what do you do to ensure you don't lose it? As I've blogged before, there is NO crime in making a mistake - we are all human, and it's how you handle that mistake that proves your worth. Being shown the door is usually not due to mistakes, but rather deep-rooted character traits. I chatted with a group of Sydney's top PRs to find out exactly what the fireable offences were...
Lies & Cover-ups
Who could forget the pearler about the PR gal who doctored an email to a client and got caught? See my previous blog, PR F@#k Ups. Lies & cover ups of this kind are the very worst, so it's ALWAYS best to 'fess up rather than cover up.
One PR states "One of my Senior Account Managers was in effect useless, but constantly blamed me or the client for not getting results. After questioning her for months, sitting in meetings where I knew she was lying, we finally got an email saying our services were not going to be renewed - with the finger firmly pointing at her. When confronted she just looked at me blankly and said the client was a punish and she didn't want to work on it anyway - and so it was best the agency didn't have them on board anymore! She is hardly in a position to decide what's best for my agency. Needless to say...Sayonara."
For one top PR, a theft was accidentally stumbled upon after a media sendout of luxe grog was one case short. Two weeks later, a friend of the boss came in the office, saw the grog in question and said "Wow, you've got those, I went to a party recently and she had them too!" Apparently young...let's call her Shazza Sticky-Fingers had taken it upon herself to relieve the office of the case for a party she was having at home. And of course, they had taken delivery of the only batch of the product available in the whole country. All eyes then darted to young Shazza, who nervously pretended to receive a phone call and quickly left the room...only to return to hear the boss say, "Shazza, in my office. Now." And to make matters worse for herself? Her response to being fired was "Well I'm not happy here anyway". There is nothing more class-less that being ungracious in the face of the firing squad when you have been so spectacularly sprung. See ya Shaz!
Partying too hard
One PR friend says: "We flew a junior to Melbourne to work on a music gig and she decided to carry on all night long, ringing with a bollocks story the next morning about missing her flight. Pics immediately surfaced of her on Facebook as well as in Sydney Confidential of her partying hard, clearly off chops. BUSTED."
Another company tells of a 9am new business meeting the morning after a huge media launch. An employee, let's call her Sleepy Sheila, rocked up to the office at 8:50am in the same clothes from the day before, smelling like vom and begging for chewing gum. After frantically trying to get it together, the meeting commenced. The witness says: "Within 20 minutes, her eyes started dropping and her elbow slouched onto the table as she desperately tried to keep her head upright. Within another 10 minutes, Sleepy was officially snoozing. It took another 15 minutes for the team director to realise, and luckily at this point the client had failed to notice. One team member nudged Sleepy and another started coughing loudly but nothing worked. Eventually the client noticed and asked the director to wake the girl. Sleepy promptly found herself unemployed...and most likely returned to the woods to join the other 6 dwarves."
Being disrespectful (or plain stupid)
One PR told me a cracker about an interesting email she once received. Her PA sent a friend an email about how her boss was annoying her followed by a most unsavoury comment...and accidentally copied her boss. Naturally, the boss responded to the email - with a termination. Everybody say...WHOOPSADAISIES!
One Sydney PR says this is the No.1 reason for firing staff in all her years in the biz. The number of people that bull-scheisen on their CVs is so immense that she no longer relies purely on references - too often the ex-boss is a friend. "So many of these young PRs can use Facebook & Twitter, but can't write a simple email" she says, so she now puts all potential employees through a half-day test inclusive of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and the humble email. And guess how an inept girl who over-sold herself responded to being fired by her? "But I look good, I can get a job anywhere". Yes...She ACTUALLY said this. Umm...how about you go do that darlin', and get an education and a reality check while you're at it.
She had another seemingly accomplished girl from a major national publishing house come to work for her as an Account Director on a 6-figure sum. It turns out her true credentials were nowhere near the size of her breakdown just 2 days later. Becoming flustered and bursting into tears, she wailed "I don't know how you do this job, it's too much!". Given the brevity of her tenure there she technically wasn't fired, more like an anullment - just like after a quickie Vegas wedding. While we're all guilty of a little CV embellishment, it's best to be honest before you press print on your snazzy resume - or risk being Donald Trumped before you can say Kinko's.
Every story I heard, regardless of the fireable offence, have one thing in common: each offence was the tipping point. Not one of them came out of the blue from a highly valued employee who may have just had a momentary lapse of judgement. All stories listed above were preceded by a series of lies, or dodgy behaviour, or an overall bad attitude. It goes to show that where there's smoke there's usually fire - so if you're an employer and an employee is showing any 'signs' of less-than-ethical behaviour, perhaps you should bite the bullet before they do some serious damage to your business.
And just to end with something saucy:
Shagging a client!
They say 40% of people meet their partner at work, but most PR bosses would consider this a fireable offence with many having it written into their company policy. One PR friend watched in horror when a girl was called into the boss's office and verbally ripped to shreds for having an affair with a client, who also happened to be married. There was screaming, tears, curse words and door slamming, and the girl was immediately walked out. If you've never witnessed a 'walk out', and I've seen a few in my time (luckily only as a witness, not as someone orchestrating the walk out or *I shudder* being walked out myself), they are HIGH drama. Nothing like a good walk-out to make you pay attention on a tiresome Monday morning. So back to our sultry client shagger, yes she lost her job - and predictably, the agency lost the client. This kind of romance
is not a desirable feature of the professional PR girl, so if you really want to pursue something along these lines - ensure it's a) worth it b) it won't cost you your job or worse, c) your professional reputation and d) you're willing to tell me ALL about it for a future blog...