I worked as a “promotional model” during my time at University for numerous brands ranging from Fairy Non-Bio and Remington to the classiest of alcoholic beverages, WKD. I worked the seedy nightclubs, the shopping centres and the trade shows. I even trudged my heels through muddy fields at the rallies.
I have since become a “communications professional”, hence my ability to comment from both sides of the fence in the ongoing saga that is the Nightclub Promo Girls versus PR Pros.
Round 500, ding ding…
I don’t know if it’s the same across the UK, but certainly in Belfast I’ve always had a problem introducing myself and my job “in PR”, particularly to men (being single, as I am) who will immediately reply “Oh, what nightclub do you work for?”
They are of course referring to what is locally known as “PR girls” who are, in actual fact, Promotions Staff. I was reminded of the confusion again when I saw this recent tweet by a local profile:
There are comparisons between the two jobs, not least the fact that Promotions Girls are hired to interact with consumers on behalf of a brand and ultimately sell a product. This is reflective of the element within Public Relations that focuses on a brand communicating with its public. But there is also the fact that promo staff are hired on the basis of their looks and personality, which isn’t to my knowledge a pre-requisite in the professional PR world (otherwise half of us would be unemployed!)
It’s not that I find it insulting to be labelled a “PR girl”, unless the person has a confused look on their face as though I couldn’t possibly look good in a spandex catsuit. I gained a lot of valuable experience from my time in promotions and had a lot of fun with it. It does upset me however that this could still be the public face of an industry that remains largely misunderstood locally, a subject I’ve blogged about before.
My job requires business-acumen; the ability to strategically plan campaigns in line with corporate objectives, to write for everyone from politicians to school children to your Nan, to make sense of data insights and statistics and produce concrete evaluations for Senior Management, to use digital technology tools beyond Facebook and actually hold the responsibility of speaking on behalf of huge brands and respected organisations without fluffing it up.
Basically, it’s a lot harder than standing outside a bar and stamping drunk people’s wrists so they can save a fiver on entry to a late-night club that they shouldn’t go to anyway because they’ll only regret it. Even if that work means standing in torrential rain, in painful high heels, getting abuse from drunk men and aching for your bed.
PR is not the same thing.
By all means use that experience to get a job in PR, like I did, and join us on the Dark Side!
But compare my current exhausted butt to my younger, fluffy, took-an-hour-to-do-my-hair-self, and I may hurt you…