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July 28, 2015

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Keeping Your Head Up and Your Nose Down

I think most of us living in the Western world can attest to the fact that our culture is deeply influenced by celebrity obsession and the latest trends. Our social media feeds are nourished on the latest gossip, public opinion and bandwagons. What you read in The New York Times can also be seen in US Weekly. It’s the way of the world now and something I have come to begrudgingly accept.

I have an interesting job. My job is to create awareness and as much media and public attention as possible for our clients. We try really hard to work with people we like or with projects we are passionate about. We work quite tirelessly to ensure our clients and projects are the talk of the town. I have one little problem: I hate gossip.

There is a very fine line behind the art of getting people to talk about what you want them to talk about and the dirty underbelly of that which is gossip. Giving up gossip has been hands down one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and though I sometimes fail, I try really hard to get back on the horse. And here is why.

A few years ago I did an experiment. Every year I would have a period in which I gave something up for an extended period of time. Usually this was booze, or chocolate or coffee – the usual suspects. Then one year I decided to really challenge myself, I gave up gossip. The minute you give up gossip, all you see and hear is who slept with whom, who got fired, who is talking behind your back. But then you start to see it in headlines; in the way news is covered, in the subway, on your phone, in your inbox. And you realize: IT IS EVERYWHERE.

At the same time, let’s not forget I work in PR. Well, I have to tell you that changed the way I looked at my job. How do I stay true to my job while staying away from the machine that just creates a lot of useless noise? And the answer was actually in the question: stay true. With every pitch I made to press, I thought to myself – Do I believe this is worthwhile? Do I care about this? Does this matter? If the answer was no to any of the three, I started over. I searched for meaning in some of the most banal projects and I learned there really is beauty in everything if you search hard enough. And if there isn’t, maybe reconsider the client. It is very challenging to hold yourself in this space for an extended period of time, but I did my very best during my “gossip cleanse” to keep it as honest and true as possible. And have to admit, I became super boring to have drinks with.

In the years since the cleanse, I have learned that life is better and work is cleaner when you keep the low-hanging gossip fruit out of it. I want people to talk about my clients because they have something of substance to share. I want them to become trendsetters because they deserve it. There is a difference between a critique of a film and gleefully destroying a project. One is respectful, the other is not. In many ways approaching my work this way has also led me to lead my life this way (or maybe it was the other way around). In any case, I have learned the difference between having a well-informed opinion or just talking for the sake of talking. I guess some of us are just trying to spin counter-clockwise.


Careers, Empowerment, Leadership, PR