Of death threats, lawsuits and tears

So I have a friend who has covered the crime beat for a decade. From singing old songs in shady bars, to drinking cheap whisky at undisclosable locations, I have hobnobbed with said lowlife at a lot of on-work-off-work activities. It gave him company and me, a new friend.

During one such session, the gentleman in question narrated to me multiple incidents of where he had got death threats in his line of work. So used to this was he, that he could differentiate between the hoaxes and the real ones.

To sum it up, the gentleman said that a crime journalist only makes her or his bones, after having received a death threat.

Several years later, I happened to meet another senior business journalist, a friend for life, and one who quipped to me, and I quote, “A lawyer’s mistakes go to prison, a doctor’s to the morgue and a journalist’s on the front page of the next day’s papers”. That conversation, after which I met a business editor of a different publication ended with the fact that a business journalist cannot be said to have ‘arrived’ until they have had a lawsuit filed against them. And the lawsuit doesn’t always have to be due to a journalistic mistake. It could just be that a brand didn’t like the publication’s take on their business, as honest as it may have been.

Now there are two reasons I ramble about my conversations with journalists. The first is so that the dear reader take something away from these little ditties that helps them have more meaningful conversations with members of the fourth estate, whether the reader be a marketer, or a journalist.

The other, and more important reason, for the purposes of this article, is that I have come to believe that PR people have not truly faced everything their profession can throw at them, until they have wept from the terrors of their job.

Do note, I’m a harsh task master. That means that if I ask someone for a deliverable and they use the phrase, “I forgot”, I am left at a loss of what to say, because salaries have never been paid for forgetting.

Yet no amount of harshness makes me a sadist. I do not encourage people being mean to others, I abhor those who humiliate others in professional or personal lives and I have very limited understanding and even lesser tolerance of office politics. Yet these very things have actually made me weep. Refer article here for the joy of knowing that everyone weeps, and even angels deserve to cry, so in doing so, you are not alone.

What I am however saying is that only full blown imbeciles make people cry and feel miserable in a professional workspace. No wait. That wasn’t what I wanted to say, though I did go ahead and say it anyway.

What I wanted to say was that life in PR will make you weep. You may not get adequate guidance and get the job wrong – Strike 1: your manager makes you feel like, pardon my language, dung. You send the pitch to a journalist covering the wrong beat and the journalist calls you out on social media, with your name and your consultancy’s in highlights – Strike 2: your media make you feel like sewage. You got the pitch wrong, the report for the event all over the place and finally your client tells you that you don’t need to bleat like a goat (yes, this once happened to a colleague of mine wry smile) – Strike 3: your client makes you feel like filth, or well, hircine. None of this, is justified.

At these points of time, remember that sweat and tears don’t smell like roses. You will weep and you will be beaten down, but each and every time you are beaten down, you will become harder, better, faster, stronger.

Because we may not like tears, but they make us stronger. Wear your tears like a badge, and always remember, as tough and as stressful PR may be, you aren’t alone, and at least you haven’t got a death threat or a lawsuit looming over you. Things improve.

Sandeep Rao
Founding Partner at One Source
Sandeep has spent close to 15 years across advertising, public relations, journalism, corporate communication and marketing. He founded One Source, an 8,000-member strong forum for marketers and journalists in 2014 and One Source, the integrated marketing consultancy, in 2019.

He spends his time stopping to smell the roses when he isn't at work. Interests include teaching Shakespeare and the value of selfishness.

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