FEATURE: The secret lives of PROs

PR can be a stressful occupation. Hannah Marriott asks five PROs how they combine work and play.

Looping the loop in her glider, 2,000ft above the Oxfordshire countryside, is Admiral PR account executive Rachel Brewing’s idea of fun. Elsewhere, Amy Jackson, head of comms at the Milk Development Council, prefers rowing championships. While Laura Castle, senior account manager at consumer agency Salt, provides backing vocals in blues band Bodkin Lane.

For all three, the pastimes are their escape from the toil of the PR industry. In PRWeek’s recent Salary Survey (PRWeek, 26 January), two thirds of the PR professionals questioned said they worked more hours in 2006 than they did in 2005, while the number admitting to working weekends – and feeling more stressed – also increased.

Juggling act
But as the trio above prove, having a successful PR career need not come at the expense of one’s personal life.

PRWeek selected some PROs who have proven that maintaining a career and following their dreams need not be mutually exclusive goals.

And while some bosses might shudder at the prospect of a deserted office at the stroke of 5pm, all of the PR people interviewed by PRWeek said they are all the more motivated and enthusiastic about their day jobs for having a fulfilling and exciting private life (see below).

Alison Lubbock (pictured below): On the ball

Daily life Account manager, Noiseworks
Secret life Represents Great Britain at indoor hockey

Twenty-nine-year-old Lubbock has been playing hockey since she was 13.

At international level, with team GB, she is a European Indoor Hockey Champion, and last month won the UK National Indoor Championships with her home club, Slough HC.

She juggles her sports life – training, gym and weights work in the week, and matches on Saturdays – with representing Maidenhead-based Noiseworks’ tech clients (including BT, wireless networking firm Net Gear and digital storage firm TraxData).

‘Last year, I joined Slough, the top team in the Slazenger National Premier League. It was a big step up for me, as it is the best hockey club in the country,’ says Lubbock. ‘Before that, I had been playing for Windsor, which plays in the South division. It was three or four leagues below the one I play in now, and demanded far less commitment.’

Hockey is an amateur sport, but Lubbock feels under pressure to train hard. Her fellow players all work full-time, so she considers herself no different.

‘As well as the training, I spend a lot of time travelling to matches. This means taking lots of half and full days off work,’ she says. It also means Lubbock has to finish bang on time at least twice a week. ‘I manage my work around this, though,’ she explains. ‘You just find solutions, like coming to work a little earlier.’

She is also sensible about drinking at client functions if there is training in the evening.

One sacrifice that Lubbock has made for her sport came when she left her previous job at a London agency to work nearer to her home and training ground. This has made life easier: ‘I was fed up with the commute so I decided to change agencies.’

Lubbock says she is lucky not to be on call, but predicts that if she were to rise to MD level, then balancing work and hockey could prove tough.

However, she adds: ‘When I’m more senior, I’ll be older and hockey probably won’t be such a priority anyway. That’s why I chose to do it now while I’m young and physically able to.’

Lubbock concludes: ‘PROs who convince themselves they cannot fit hobbies in with their work need to rethink this because it’s just a state of mind. Perhaps they don’t realise the benefits – I go to the gym at lunch and come back refreshed, sharper and with more energy.’

Peter Davies (pictured below)

Daily life PR director, RMS PR
Secret life Soccer referee in the Nationwide Conference

Cheshire-based Davies works for B2B, financial and professional services clients and has worked in PR for seven years. He has been a referee since he was a teenager.

‘I loved football, but I was never good enough to play, and this is the next best thing,’ he says.


Being a referee is time-consuming, and – as Davies hopes to become a Premier League referee – is likely to become even more so. ‘As you rise through the ranks the levels of commitment increase,’ he says. ‘I started out doing

Sunday mornings, then Saturday afternoons, too, and now I do one day in the week as well.’

Having a match on a Saturday can limit Davies when it comes to networking: ‘If there are Christmas parties or events on a Friday then I do need to ensure I don’t overindulge. Other staff might be out partying with clients or journalists, but at midnight I’ll be tucked up in bed with a mug of Ovaltine. You have to make some big sacrifices.’

He does not see this as a problem though: ‘To be good at PR you need to juggle your work/life balance. Agencies that insist staff booze with clients give PR a bad name. Too many of the huge global PR agencies end up churning out PR clones, people who don’t have any time to fulfil personal interests.’

He adds: ‘Well-rounded people usually have a variety of interests. It makes them happier and more creative. PR bosses shouldn’t be slave drivers, and they should create more than one type of PR person.’

Davies says his company’s attitude helps a lot: ‘I work with a supportive team that is more than capable of picking up work I may leave. My colleagues are keen to see me progress with my refereeing, as well as my PR career. I have never turned down a match for business commitments.’

He adds: ‘Refereeing is part of my character, and is intrinsic to who I am. And I learn things about communication that I can put into practice in PR.’

Charlotte Sherry (pictured top)

Daily life Account executive, CHA
Secret life Cheerleader for The London Rockets (cheerleaders)

Twenty-three-year-old Sherry started cheerleading as a student at Leeds University, and for the past 18 months has been The London Rockets’ flyer – meaning she is propelled into the air when the squad does ‘stunting’.

Her team competes in competitions all over the country, and next month will be dancing at the British Cheerleading Association’s UK Championship.

Her gruelling training schedule keeps Sherry busy almost every weekend, every Thursday night and many Friday nights. She also has to take days off as holiday when her squad is doing TV and promotional work. However, she ensures she can attend all her training and rehearsals with careful planning.

‘When I’m in work I work very hard, I never miss deadlines and people know they can rely on me. It’s just a case of managing your time, making people aware of what you are doing in advance so you don’t spring it on people,’ she says. ‘I leave at 5pm on Thursdays, and everyone knows that – it’s in the diary and I also email everyone to remind them before I go, just to make sure it doesn’t clash with anything.’

She adds: ‘I know which days I train, and which days I don’t, well in advance, so I make sure I don’t book meetings that might run on late those days. If a later meeting is unavoidable I make it clear before we meet that I will have to leave at a certain time for training.’

Sherry says she relies on the support of her employer, but given that CHA brands itself ‘the workplace comms consultancy’, with many HR clients, the agency has to back work/life balance.

‘I would be happy to go on call but the agency tries to organise things so work does not eat into our own time,’ she explains. ‘Even if I wasn’t training, I wouldn’t be in the office at 7pm.’

The concept of a life without exercise is almost unthinkable for Sherry: ‘I have friends who don’t do any sport, and they feel lethargic and horrible all the time – and they get ill more often than I do,’ she says.

SOME OTHER PROs WHO WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD

Munro & Forster senior account manager Daniel Burges is a tenor in chamber choir Vasari Singers, and rehearses at least once – sometimes three times – a week. He performs in up to 12 concerts, and records at least one CD, a year.

There are also occasional foreign tours, for which Burges has to take time off work. ‘You have to be strict,’ he says. ‘I do not organise client meetings or press conferences on the day of a rehearsal.’

Last month, Burges pulled out of a concert because of work commitments: ‘I couldn’t let the client down,’ he says.

Another musical PRO is Financial Dynamics senior V-P Jon Simmons, who plays the viola in The Forest Philharmonic orchestra. He says he juggles work and play ‘with great difficulty’, adding: ‘I can often be found taking calls during breaks in rehearsals.’

But who spends their time acting and tightrope walking? Who is a stand-up comedian? Which PRO combines competitive sailing with a busy day job? And who is in a band called The Lazarus Plot and plans to release a single next year? To find out, keep checking PRWeek.com.



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