lessons for the lonely PR

by Lindsay Narey

Lindsay Nary is the sole PR and comms person in her organisation. Here, she shares honestly about her role and the pros and cons of this single existence.

Me, myself and I, All by myself.  Countless songs in every genre have attempted to describe the ups and downs of being on your lonesome. Whilst these generally describe the woe of failed relationships, I think there should be a song in honour of being alone in the workplace. 

I have no intention of penning a depressing ballad, but as I enter my seventh year in a singleton PR role I’ve learned a few things which I think are worth sharing. 

This isn’t a rant or a tale of doom but hopefully some friendly advice in a time when ‘more for less’ and ‘squeezed resources’ are sitting at the top of the most used office phrases charts, if such a thing were to exist.

I’m a Communications Officer for a public sector organisation.  Therein lies the first issue, the word “Communications’ is such a general one that those who aren’t in the know make the assumption that I’m responsible for every single conversation and interaction across the business.  I have twice been asked if I can repair someone’s telephone line, as this falls under the remit of the Communications Officer - obviously.

I’ll admit I’m sometimes guilty of not taking my own advice, but if I could turn back the clock, I’d be having a word with my six years younger self and saying this: 

Firstly working solo can be rubbish. PR is an industry which demands a non-stop creative spark, and having no-one to bounce ideas off can be tough.  At times you may feel as if you are losing your mind,  and that your idea is the work of a mad woman/man.  Chances are that as a trained and experienced professional it’s not, but you may feel this way.

A lot of people don’t really get what you do. To the non-PR trained eye it could well look like a damn easy ride, but yes Finance, HR, person, I am actually working when you see me reading the paper and perusing social media sites.

A lone voice, and especially if it’s a quiet one like mine,  can struggle to convince people of the value of PR.  Really, why do we employ someone to take photos of special events, scan press cuttings, organise staff awards ceremonies, design and write leaflets, business plans, annual reports, befriend/fend off journalists, run our website, populate our intranet, write sharp and entertaining articles, protect and enhance the organisation’s reputation..... oh     

Going on holiday usually means things stand still, and unfortunately PR opportunities may be missed.  Someone may be good enough to take a few phone messages for you, but as for actioning them, forget it.  You may as well hang a closed for business sign over your desk and get your feather duster ready to swoosh the cobwebs off your monitor on your return.

I’ve been a member of a team in the past and have warm memories of feeling supported, being able to hand my work to someone in my absence, pulling together at tough times.  Yes I do miss it, but as I said, I’ve done this solo gig for over six years, so there must be some positives.... yes? Let’s spin it around:

You and only you are the expert in PR for the whole organisation - imagine that!  Get things right and people will respect your views, some may even think you’re a genius!

You can feel suitably smug when you overhear team bickering over office cover and snipes about people not pulling their weight.  Just think, there is an ‘I’ in my team because it’s all MINE!

You’ve got freedom to come up with your own ideas, and when you achieve them you’ll feel damn good knowing you’ve done it all by yourself!  Another bonus is that a lot of people won’t understand how you’ve done them, therefore adding to your superhero status.

Imagine the annual savings you’re making by not having to buy a cart load of doughnuts for a huge team on your birthday!

So now we’re agreed that working alone can have its plus points, how to make the most of them:
Being able to multi-task is crucial to any job these days, and especially ones with a remit as wide as communications.  Remember you’re not superhuman and can’t do everything.  Prioritise, look at what’s important, what’s going to make the most impact and add value, and make a plan.

Reputation management is your game but don’t forget to look after your own image!  This is especially important for a team of one because you’ve got no-one to hide behind. Get out there and tell people what you do - run awareness sessions, join team meetings, get that friendly face known.

Your time is precious, and not for wasting with unnecessary projects.  In the manner of a small child, keep asking WHY?   Why do we randomly need an expensive brochure about our work,  why do we need to send a leaflet to every householder in the area, why do you need a logo for your project when you don’t yet have any objectives?    

Make use of the wealth of online tools and resources out there and bingo, you have a virtual team! The Chartered Institute of Public Relations have a new and very handy Creativity and Innovation toolkit to help you with just that.  Comms2point0 is pretty nifty too!  

Finally although it can feel lonely, you’re never truly by yourself.  Make the most of the fact that most of your fellow comms friends in other industries and organisations are welded to their smartphones, tablets and laptops. Tweet, Linkedin and email them to share ideas.  Or maybe just have an good old fashioned phone conversation.

Now to take my own advice...

Read Lindsay's own blog here

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