Opinion: What my worse bosses taught me about PR

The author explains how all bosses, peers and juniors, good or bad can teach fellow professionals something that helps them during their journey

Nov 02, 2022 09:03:00 AM | Article | Sonali Sokhal

I am what one would call a boss today, but things were not always like that. I have also had my share of bosses, and not all of them were good. Some of them were very bad. They were opinionated, perfectionists, absent mentally and t times physically, and at times political as well. 
 
Yet, every one of them taught me something I decided to carry along in my professional career. So here it is. A few lessons, my worse bosses taught me and which might stand in good stead for a younger set of PR professionals finding their feet.
 
Don’t ask me what to do: My first boss ever had no opinion on media and media relations. She was too busy to sit with us and brief us and we were always told to self-learn. She had a pile of magazines (please remember these were days before Magzter) and we were supposed to go through them and the daily papers and figure out our strategies. This helped! Immensely! To date, I spend a few hours per week just going through articles, magazines and online portals to look for journalists, story ideas and tonality. Apart from client discussions, this effort has been the singularly most helpful activity to build my career and knowledge base. So do take the time out to do your research. It’s more rewarding than Netflix.
 
A journalist also has to do their own PR: I once had a boss who expected journalists to contact her for stories, instead of proactively pitching to them. When I used to muse at the arrogance she had turned around and told me, a journalist also has to cultivate us for good stories. Make this your roadmap, identify the journalists with whom you can build rapport. In the course of my career, I have realised more than gifts, sweet words or fancy dinners, each journalist is hungry for a good story. See the ones you want to cultivate and see the kind of stories they do. Give them the kind of content they are looking for and they will love you forever.
 
Redo-redo and redo: In one of my jobs, I made 52 new business presentations. That was one presentation a week. It was a killer exercise, which was compounded by a boss, who made me redo things if even a comma was awry. It stood me in good stead. Editing, writing and planning became a muscle memory for me, and I could make presentations in my sleep. So don’t be afraid of putting in the work. It just makes you better at what you do.
 
Take a break, mentally and physically: I once had a boss, who at the most critical moments and times would disappear for days. She would be gone abruptly, leaving us minions to do her work and come back precisely when the job was done to pick up the accolades. She might have invented 'quiet quitting' before it became a trend. It was a strange practice. But, as I grew more senior in my profession, I learnt to take the occasional day off, when I’ve had a rough week. The more senior you get, the calmer you need to be, and a few hours or a day off is not going to harm you. But, yes, please do stand by your tea on the rough and hectic days as well.
 
Lean on others: One of the vice presidents in an organisation I worked in, would ensure all her work was done by different juniors, from sending emails, to updating her social media, as well as filing reports that should have been done by her. Even her appraisals were ghostwritten by yours truly. Was it a bad practice? Absolutely. But what I learnt from it was this, ask for help when you are stuck. There is always a colleague who has a better rapport with a journalist you are trying to approach. Or experience with a particular domain. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help as PR is a team game. Do return the favour when you need to, of course.
 
So here it is folks! All bosses, peers and even juniors good or bad can teach us something. The secret is to take it in your stride and move ahead to being a better professional across all your experiences.
 
The author is co-founder, PRPOI and founder, Intelliquo PR