In my head (never mind the wrinkles on my forehead), it seems like only yesterday that I was an eager, bright overachiever, dressed in a blur of designer labels—the Lower East Side and Loehmann’s still spelled fashion bargains—and thrift-store finds, lapping up insights and tips from the likes of my former boss and mentor, Jay Chiat. Twenty-odd years, literally millions of air miles and a career switch (from advertising to PR) later, the tables have turned.
I’m still an obsessive learner, but these days I’m the one mentoring and sharing stuff I’ve learned along the way, probably with the same impatience Jay and his A Team displayed when we wallowed in the reinvention of the third spoke of the wheel.
Here are some lessons that are top of mind for me as I prepare remarks for the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Public Relations Conference, where I will trace my journey from Madison Avenue to Mars and back, mostly aboard Spaceship Cyberspace, the most extraordinary vessel and journey anyone could have.
1. Pack a light rucksack each morning and never overpromise as to where you’ll be tonight and tomorrow. With a 24/7 news cycle and 24/7 clients, there’s no telling when you’ll get a call that takes you to another city, state or country. As you’re rushing to make travel connections and managing business on the fly, you really don’t want to be hunting down personal essentials or making apologies at midnight—especially by SMS.
2. Subordinate your brand to the brands you steward. An important part of my work is understanding how to attract media interest. After thousands of appearances at conferences, in traditional media and increasingly in digital, I think I’m getting the hang of it. But it’s not about personal promotion. In all my media appearances I’m thinking in terms of furthering my employers’—and especially my clients’—visibility and interests. Particularly in this age of celebrity mania, bosses and clients need to be sure they’re not just funding the further development of Brand Me. If my visibility doesn’t help my agency win business and our clients’ brands thrive, I’m in major trouble. For me, sighting the “metrosexual” trend was at times troublesome because there were moments when it stopped making sense for the client (Peroni), my agency (Euro RSCG Worldwide) and my career (if I don’t have another major success, I’m doomed to having “Popularized metrosexual” on my tombstone; how’s that for pressure?).