PANDORA'S PROBLEM PAGE

Q: I was a top exec at my old company. I gained a lot of experience there, and am proud of how many of my brainstorms became successful pitches and campaigns. Unfortunately, our firm - like so many others - did not survive recent economic woes. My experience and accomplishments enabled me to get another job fairly quickly, though not quite at the same level as my previous role. When I was interviewed by my current boss, she said that my track record gave her the confidence to lean on me for many creative ideas.

Q: I was a top exec at my old company. I gained a lot of experience there, and am proud of how many of my brainstorms became successful pitches and campaigns. Unfortunately, our firm - like so many others - did not survive recent economic woes. My experience and accomplishments enabled me to get another job fairly quickly, though not quite at the same level as my previous role. When I was interviewed by my current boss, she said that my track record gave her the confidence to lean on me for many creative ideas.

However, as time has gone by, I've found that my suggestions are rarely, if ever, sought. I'm essentially just doing what I am told. I know my boss appreciates how hard I work, but I don't think she respects my ability to think creatively and hammer out a strategic approach to our clients' programs. Frankly, I don't see this attitude changing. I'm very secure in my position here, which is a good feeling in a tough economy, but I'm often annoyed at my lack of creative input. Should I look for another job, live with it, or is there something I can do to alter my boss' thinking?

Ms. A, Seattle

A: Many PR managers like to believe that they encourage underlings to be creative, saying they welcome contributions to the planning process.

I find that few actually live up to those lofty ideals. PR executives who rise through the ranks relish their hard-earned strategic role in the division of labor, and are often reluctant to surrender any portion of that territory to an ambitious upstart.

Perhaps more importantly, it is not as easy as you might think to find staff that can translate the strategy of a program into action. Few young PR people realize that. The foundation of effective PR is first-rate tactical work. Those who shine in the unglamorous side of PR may find their contribution is overlooked.

I wonder if that may be true in this case. You interpret your lack of strategic contributions as a sign that your boss doesn't respect you.

But the opposite may be true. Your ability to take on the challenges thrown at you may be a skill your boss is unwilling to give up.

The only solution is to have a frank discussion with your boss about your goals. Ask her if you can set specific targets to begin offering more strategic input.

If those targets are not met, then you may really be embroiled in a battle for intellectual territory. That's when you will know if it's time to get the classifieds out.

Q: I am the VP of communications for a large nonprofit organization, and a big part of my job is educating journalists about the particular healthcare issues. I don't mind taking reporters to lunch (which they always suggest, naturally) in order to get some face time with them, but I'm really sick of the way one of them seems to be taking this for granted. He always suggests we meet at a fancy French place ("It's close to my office,

he says), then orders the most expensive item on the menu. He also drinks wine during lunch, which would be fine if I suggested it, but I don't drink at lunch. The trouble is, I do get some good stories from him. I'm afraid if I start to cut him off, our coverage will nosedive. How can I curb his indulgences?

Ms. D, Boston

A: If you are really doing your job properly you should fear no reduction in coverage because you can't constantly wine and dine your established contacts. My advice is stop doing lunch. Meet for coffee instead and let him indulge in a few Krispy Kremes. That should keep him happy.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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