There ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks

4496133-businessman-holding-a-cleaning-broom-selective-focusWhenever my monthly edition of PR Week washes up on my desk, I immediately turn to my favorite part: Don Spetner's column on the final page.

Fittingly entitled, 'Last', Spetner's column is chock full of wise, funny insights from his life in PR. The most recent one, headlined: 'Driven people only need apply' really struck a nerve.

Spetner references an industry organization to which we both belong that is populated by the top chief communications officers and agency leaders in America. As he took note of a recent gathering, Spetner was taken by the shared traits and abilities of the CCOs: “Most of them have extraordinary social skills… and the majority is gracious, warm and flexible.” But, he quickly added that, in order to have achieved the level of success they have, the CCOs also possessed “…steely resolve.” Amen, brother. And, ditto for their agency brethren, BTW.

Spetner makes the point that a fast-track career in PR isn't for the faint of heart. It's not a nine-to-five gig. Nor is it a job one can leave behind when one heads home for the night. Quoting the Rapper Mobb Deep, he says, “There ain't no such thing as halfway crooks.”

I tell aspiring job applicants the same thing (although I rarely find myself quoting rap lyrics). PR either is, or isn't, in your DNA. You either love it or hate it. That's not to suggest mediocre types can't find a place to hide. They can. But, the profession's intensity eventually outs them.

Spetner added one other salient point in his column. In recalling an incident from his very first job as a busboy at a Tucson Denny's, Spetner describes his amazement at seeing the franchise owner bend down and pick up a tissue paper on the floor (the owner picking up tissue?!?!).

I experienced the exact same incident at one of my first PR gigs. I worked at Geltzer & Company, a midsized agency.  Just before a big, new business pitch, I accompanied Howard Geltzer into the men's room. I watched as he not only took care of business, but picked up errant paper towels and toilet paper littering the floor. Noticing my astonished look, Howard said, “Steve, it ALL matters. It matters to the client, the prospect and the employee. And, it should matter to you too."

As Spetner says, the pursuit of excellence is in the DNA of the very best professionals in PR. I would add that, those of us who also happen to be entrepreneurs, take Spetner's POV to an even higher level since the business is, in fact, our baby (I routinely straighten picture frames, wipe up spills on conference room tables, etc.).

So here's a piece of advice to every novice who one day aspires to reach the upper echelons of PR: either engage completely or get out. There are no halfway crooks (or halfway PR success stories).

6 thoughts on “There ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks

  1. Good point, Julie. While we do lose staff to other PR firms, it’s more often the case that they decide to change careers entirely. We once had someone abandon PR to become a landscape architect.

  2. I agree with Stacy and RepMan regarding 100 percent dedication to the role…which is why I’ve seen so many millennials ditch PR as soon as they figure out it isn’t all fun & games and party planning as portrayed on TV.

  3. That’s very kind of you, Stacy. I thought Spetner’s original column really captured what’s expected of senior PR executives. You either live, eat and breathe the business or you’re out. It’s that simple (and that intense).

  4. Excellent post–and so, so true. You really can’t do this job halfway. Between social media, media-driven deadlines, C-suite demand for metrics/ROI, never-ending employee communications needs and the constant “educating” we have to do to get a real seat at the table, it is an all-in profession. You really need to surround yourself with like-minded folks to succeed…which is why I’m so happy to have Peppercom on speed-dial!

  5. I can’t even get the lawyers in my office to put the seat down or wipe up their “leftovers” in the restroom that sits directly across from the desk. I may post this in all of the kitchens at my office.