With a few notable exceptions, I think it’s hard for me to describe an ‘average’ work day. As most of my colleagues would no doubt agree, there is seldom anything average about the life of a PR professional. Anyone who works in a client servicing profession knows that clients can be a somewhat difficult breed; every day can bring with it a slew of new challenges. Moreover, as a business owner, I often juggle the roles of PR exec with the vagaries of running a business (anyone who thinks that being one’s own boss is easier than working for someone else is sorely mistaken).
As a student of philosophy (not to mention being a mildly OCD Virgo), I believe it’s always good to try at least to impose a measure of order on top of otherwise chaotic systems.
As such, I try hard to plan my day to a ‘T’ – iCal is my trusted companion in these mostly unsuccessful endeavours. Yet in spite of carefully planning out my day, week, month, I more often than not find myself juggling a multitude of tasks. Perhaps this is one reason why the PR profession is often dominated by women – born multi-taskers. Nonetheless, I shall attempt to dissect any given Monday, outlining at least the broad strokes of how an ‘average’ start to the week might go.
Most weekday mornings begin the same way – with my terribly pugnacious pug, Tyson, jumping on my face. This is usually followed by several exclamations of abuse, after which Tyson is unceremoniously dispatched to the terrace for breakfast, and I (unsuccessfully) attempt to catch a few more minutes of much-needed sleep (amidst half-awake dreams of discovering Sir Martin Sorrell is a long-lost uncle who has decided to bequeath me WPP’s PR empire, a la Burson, Hill & Knowlton et al). Having finally stumbled out of bed, showered, shaved and completed my morning ablutions, I grab a bit of breakfast and head to work.
Having arrived in the office, I commence my morning ritual: two scoops of Lavazza in the coffee machine and a perusal of the day’s papers along with the team. This is usually the easiest part of the day – going through all the English and Urdu dailies, tracking coverage for clients, as well as identifying relevant stories. This is followed by a quick skim through the blogosphere, a check-in on Facebook, and then on to the emails. Having separated the ‘actionable’ emails from the ‘informational’ ones, I’ll settle in to do whatever it is I have planned for the day (reference aforementioned iCal).
Said ritual usually takes me through to around noon – by this point, one’s various clients have also gone through ‘their’ daily rituals. As such, this point of the day is invariably where I find myself juggling a variety of client-related concerns – an example of a typical conversation might run something like this:
Client Exec A: “Omar! Client X’s press release didn’t get printed over the weekend. What do I do? Client’s freaking out!”
Me: “Ummm, did you mention that it was printed this morning? Since the press release went out on Saturday night, that should be okay.”
Client Exec A: “Yes, I did – but it only appeared in eight newspapers, instead of the nine he really, really wants…!”
Me: “Okay, so do we know why paper number nine didn’t run the story?”
At which point, Client Exec B will run into my office.
Client Exec B: “Omar! I have Client Y on the phone. She’s asking if we can meet today in the next 20 minutes.”
Me: “Didn’t we have a meeting tomorrow?”
Client Exec B: “Yes, but she’s freaking out because she has a haircut tomorrow and now wants to meet today, but she can only meet in the next 20 minutes, ‘cause after that she has to pick up her kid from school, and then has an appointment with her plates instructor.”
Me: “Ok, let me just check my diary…”
Client Exec A: “But what do I do about Client X??”
Me: “Give me a seco…”
At this point, Client Exec C will invariably saunter in: “Hey Omar. Client Z really loves us. He loved his appearance on City42 and really wants to give a recording of the coverage to his in-laws to show them how cool he is.”
Me: “Okay, so can you…”
Client Exec B: “She’s holding on…!”
Figuring that the best way forward is to respond to all queries in one go, I’ll normally shoot through a quick: “Tell Client X paper nine will run the story tomorrow; tell Client Y to come along to the office; tell Client Z, no worries, we’ll get the recording as soon as possible.”
And just when I think all is sorted, Client Exec D will holler from the other side of the office: “Oh my God! How can I write this article?? I don’t know anything about WiMax! Omaaaaaarrr, help!!!!”
Of course, it’s not ‘that’ bad (at least not always), but I do often find the middle part of my day juggling phone calls, emails and queries from clients and staff, as well as media contacts. Truth be told, the PR agency lifestyle works in cycles of troughs and peaks. There are times when things are relatively quiet – times like these I’ll usually sit with the company directors and chat about growth strategy, or grab a smoothie from The Hot Spot, or sometimes just catch up with the team, talk about their personal goals or brainstorm ideas for clients.
Lunch (when I find the time to actually allow food to pass through my lips) is usually a quick affair: more often than not, a fresh green salad with grilled chicken eaten at my desk, while poring over emails or other work (Fridays being the exception when I’ll order out and take my full lunch hour to enjoy my meal). PR is all about managing relationships, internal ‘and’ external. And so if not writing press releases, articles, op-eds or otherwise executing tactics or devising strategy, the latter part of the day I will usually try to drop by key clients for a casual chat.
As a start-up, I also spend a fair amount of time working on business development. Of course, this is made massively easy by Latitude’s business development director, Zarmina Durrani – she’ll bring the prospects to our doorstep, and we then convert them into real clients. In fact, given how young the Latitude team is – and the fact that this is the first PR job for most of them – the results we get for clients are a testament to their hard work and to how incredibly bright and talented they are. I have always said that any organisation is only ever as good as it’s team – and in that respect, I am fortunate to have a truly stellar team to work with.
While our official office hours are nine to six I generally don’t leave the office before seven. The last hour or so in the office – if not spent managing some crisis or the other – is my ‘me time’, when I’ll peruse my Facebook, catch up on personal emails and browse through interesting articles on PR and technology and gadgets (my secret fetish). The day invariably ends as it began: with me day dreaming of inheriting a PR empire, while contemplating offering The Hot Spot a bartering deal – unlimited PR in exchange for a lifetime supply of ice-cream, frozen yoghurt and cupcakes. Whoever said PR wasn’t fun!
Omar Jamil is CEO, Latitude – Corporate Relationship Solutions.