Considering my new career path and the many questions it throws up, especially among journalist/theatre friends, I thought it might be an idea to write a string of articles about PR – as people always seem to have questions! And yes, this is also a bit of shameless self-promotion… 😉
When I moved from writing about, blogging and reviewing theatre into PRing theatre last year, quite a few friends suddenly had a wealth of questions – unfortunately, mostly about whether I was selling my soul or asking about why people still bought into the “myth” of PR. And it’s true – it’s not a field best understood or trusted. There have been plenty of times, this past year, where I’ve been socialising or attending plays with theatre friends and have definitely felt excluded – not being asked for an opinion, or certainly not taking the opinion given as something truthful or honest.
And there is certainly this feeling about PR, especially in Theatreland – which, in all honesty, is an industry wracked by emotional opinions. In that situation, it’s certainly very difficult to toe a centrist line – which, at first, you feel is what you MUST do as a PR. Your opinions could cost you work and influence, and without either of those your time in the industry will be short-lived! And we all know PRs like that, who maintain this middle ground – some with cold, unwavering professionalism, others with po-faced inscrutability – and it’s no surprise that they struggle with that when surrounded by florid, emotional theatre people.
I’ve found this exceptionally difficult. Not only am I, frankly, quite a forthright (even arrogant) man, but my time as a critic/reviewer means that I often respond to theatre with notes. And I’m, quite resolutely, a theatre person – I do respond to work emotionally, and want to engage with and discuss it, sometimes deploring and other times exulting. But does this make me a bad PR?
To be honest, I don’t know – but I think I’m happier being the odd one out when it comes to PRs, not theatre people. I want to promote shows that I actually like and care about, and want to be known as someone who passionately believes in all of their projects and has strong opinions – and turn down work that I don’t like, because I don’t want to become the inscrutable man with the fixed smile. But more on that soon…