Contributed by Samantha McGarry
This year didn’t go exactly as I had planned. An unexpected career ‘hiatus’ forced me to examine my skills, my strengths and career goals. Thankfully, it also gave me more time to spend with my children. As I played, laughed, negotiated, yelled, organized, cleaned and gritted my teeth, it dawned on me how much a career in PR is excellent training for parenthood. If you entered a career in PR because you loved communications, marketing, social media and so on, you probably didn’t realize you were getting a two-fer. There are, in fact, so many correlations between PR skills and parenting; it’s a wonder that agencies don’t offer parenting classes.
Here are a few of my observations of the prerequisite skills required to excel at both:
- Multi-tasking: PR folks have numerous balls in the air. Always. We are masters at simultaneously thinking, talking, writing, organizing and planning. This is perhaps the most essential skill transfer that helps us parents be efficient and productive – just watch how we can change a diaper, schedule a play date, do the laundry, avert a tantrum, clean up the toy room and make dinner, all at the same time.
- Thick skin: Most PR professionals recognize that a thick skin shields our energizer-bunny spirits from the rejection of reporters, the red pen edits, or a client’s reaction to what we thought was a brilliant idea. In the world of parenting, you also quickly learn that your child’s rejection of your cooking is not personal. When they scream at you for turning off the TV or tell you they hate you for grounding them, you know it’s because you are actually doing something right. In both PR and parenting, having a thick skin, a sense of humor – and the occasional large glass of wine – help us keep our blood pressure down and to keep things in perspective.
- Detail-oriented: We are detail fanatics. We obsess about the details. No typos allowed. Using the right font? Have we turned over every stone in the quest to place a client story? In parenting, there are admittedly some areas of our lives that become sloppy (have you seen the state of my living room?) but there are also many details to obsess about –developmental milestones, balanced diet, the contents of their birthday party goody bags, is the diaper bag well-stocked, are enough clean socks for the week ahead? The details of parenting can be overwhelming but a healthy obsession with them actually helps avoid meltdowns, delays and sticky situations.
- Creativity/innovation: PR demands creativity and quick thinking. At Inkhouse, we pride ourselves on developing bright new ways to showcase our clients. Many a parent has called on these two skills to head-off potentially embarrassing or explosive situations that usually happen when the family is out in public, stuck in traffic or bickering at home.
- Long days/short nights: Most PR types are workaholics. We put in a lot of hours. There is always more we can do to satisfy our clients’ insatiable appetite for media attention. If you can survive the demanding schedule of a PR agency, you can survive the first months of being a new parent or days stuck at home with bored or sick kids.
- Clear, concise communications: We agonize over a headline. We strive to make complex messages straightforward, relevant and impactful. This could be one of the most useful skills to apply to parenting. Think: “go to bed,” “put that [sharp object, sibling, dirty diaper] down,” or “if you don’t eat your vegetables, then [insert appropriate outcome/threat.]
Who knew that our career choice would make us better parents? I’d love to hear from other “PR parents” about how you put your PR skills to use at home.