I chose to switch careers from the fast-paced public relations agency world to higher education after I became a mom. However, two kids later, I’ve realized that being a parent is much like working in public relations. Here are some similarities:
1. Both are 24-hour jobs. In public relations you work many late nights and weekends to develop proposals, help clients meet their deadlines, or respond to a crisis. As a mom or dad, you’ll enjoy frequent all nighters with a sick child or get 2:00 a.m. bad dream wake up calls.
2. Bad mood, what bad mood? In a media and client driven industry, you are never “off duty.” As a public relations professional you must maintain calm, poise and be pleasant to challenging clients or editors. As a parent, your mood sets the tone for each day. Losing your cool is a no-no. You must lead by example, at home and in PR.
3. Tantrums anyone? We expect a four-year-old to have a tantrum. Unfortunately, client, celebrity, or colleague tantrums are commonplace in the type-A filled public relations profession. Your ability to maintain composure and effectively diffuse a tantrum is an essential skill as a parent and a manager.
4. Weird food. In my public relations travels I tried everything from alligator to zebra to sea urchin. As a mom, I’ve sampled many weird “recipes” that my proud daughters have created. Yum.
5. Trends. You’ve got to be a quick study of trends and news as a PR pro. As a parent, it is nearly impossible to keep up with kid trends: mismatch socks (fashion?), slap bracelets, Beanie Boos and “Big Time Rush” (by the time you read this, they’ll have likely moved on to other things).
6. Creativity and coloring. Parents must come up with clever ways to engage kids in positive snow-day play. Identifying creative ways to generate news and events to engage our audiences are PR fundamentals. World’s largest cupcake anyone?
7. Dress up. As a junior staffer and intern you’ll likely be asked to don a chicken suit or stand in front of the “Today” show with a logo hat or shirt. Putting on crazy costumes with my kids and marching around the house reminds me of those early PR days.
8. Tough questions. Giving age-appropriate, yet honest answers to, “Where do babies come from?” is a parental rite of passage. In public relations, you are expected to deliver honest counsel, maintain appropriate brand messages, and answer difficult questions every day.
The list could go on, but I have to go referee a client—I mean sibling dispute.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.