A mwah darlink PR cauldron

Attended an event yesterday evening which would have horribly confirmed any preconceptions any outsider may have about PR.

An assorted cross-industry gathering of people who practice the trade.  I’d walked up and down the same Soho street several times looking for a venue with the right name.  After asking someone I was told it was an alternative name for a bar I’d walked past several times already.  Having walked through town from Waterloo I felt my shirt sticking uncomfortably to the base of my spine through my jacket.

Walking upstairs into the dark, first floor “VIP Area” I was assaulted by my own heightened self consciousness.  Beautiful, groomed, typically PRy people adorned the room, the majority women.  As with other PR-specific events I’ve attended – events outside my usual preferred trade which usually contain mostly male smart-casual entrepreneurs and younger bedroom geeks – I feel slightly out of my comfort zone.  I don’t do gloss, big ultra white teeth, expensive clothes or attractive.  How achingly transparent is my roughly 67% self belief? 

Approaching the bar, one of the organisers thrusts her hand towards me.  I’ve never met her before, introduce myself.  I feel the mozzled sweat on my forehead beginning to fizzle lightly in this tight, warm, first-floor space full of bodies.  My body also realises I’ve stopped walking at a clipped pace and tries to compensate somehow.  I decide wiping my forehead with my hand would be more icky than ignoring it. 

She introduces herself, offers a beer, gestures to her colleague next to her who I have met once before.  Obviously they’re both attractive.  It’s a very mwah darlink atmosphere with cheek kisses aplenty, but I offer her my hand nonetheless, aware of the forehead sheen..  The way she shakes my hand immediately feels too stiff and formal for this environment and I feel faintly silly for not taking a step forward and confidently planting a kiss on both her cheeks.  Then aggrieved that I should feel that obligation.  I hate this gushy crap.

The next few hours brings chats with an assortment of characters, all with different specialities and at different stages of their careers.  What’s obvious in the room is the desire, and almost desperation, to exude that certain winning confidence, utter conviction, strength, bravado.  Even though plenty of us are new freelancers slightly concerned about whether this whole thing will be sustainable, and cautiously eye others in our own field as competitors.

A dark haired Irish girl who could easily be a forgotten Corr sister is a complete knockout.  She has the exuding confidence thing totally nailed.  Assertive, controlled, strong experience, firm head on her shoulders, human.  Smiley but not too smiley – like some certainly were, as if shielding behind banks of big, gleaming white teeth (fashion and lifestyle PRs).  And she was dynamic, vivid, energetic, damn hot.  It was all there, she needed nobody.  Disgustingly beautiful.  She looked upon me with good natured tolerance as we chatted.

Lengthily chatted to an essentially dull but equally intoxicated chap who worked in a niche technical sector, giving me hope that such work exists.  He rambled away at length, assuming a level of technical knowledge of me which I didn’t have but not testing it.  Made conversation easy and undemanding.

Then another noteable later on in the evening was an experienced chap who must have been in his fifties: debonair, distinguished, brash and raffish. Not unlikeable.  He had clearly had an impressive career, working for a number of top notch agencies, pitching in the Pentagon around 9/11 to the US defence (defense?) during a period spent in America.  He was all about image, he told me: confidence, expense and not seeming cheap, he told me.  You have to impress that on clients, not worry about expenditure if you have to go up north or overseas for a pitch.  Wear the best suits, pay for prospects and clients’ meals and entertainment, flatter them. 

I nodded earnestly to him, as if ravenously sucking up his knowledge, experience and advice.  It all sounded quite horrible, fraudulent, a sham.  Did I actually really want to do that sort of thing?  He was obviously talking about his particular, highly successful niche which he’d operated in at a high level for a number of years.  There are probably other, more understated ways of going about a reasonably successful career. 

If you really want it..

After making a half-hearted attempt to find the organisers,  I shook hands with the experienced chap and made an unshowy exit.


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