CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I was hired eight months ago as an assistant account executive

with a big multinational firm. This is my first PR job and I am really

excited about it, but my boss is really putting me off the whole


He speaks like a walking press release, saying idiotic and pointless

things like, "The thing that differentiates our agency is its culture,"

and "The client's happiness is our first priority." We had some layoffs

a month ago and I actually heard him say, "The staffing rethink will

boost our entrepreneurial motivation." How can I keep from turning into


Mr. T., Chicago

A: There are certainly many examples of the jargon-blabbing hype

merchants in PR. But the vast majority of those practicing the strategic

arts hold veracity and clarity as their most precious commodities. Seek

them out - you will find them in your own agency if you look hard


You should also pursue relationships with other young PR people, so you

can trade experiences. A good place to start is

Remember that your career will go far beyond one purveyor of spin


You are also a representative of the industry. Be candid and

straightforward, and make yourself a model for others that need.

Q: My boss and I took a journalist out to lunch last week. My boss paid

for lunch and she and I took a cab back to the office. But when we got

there, she said she didn't have enough cash and asked me for enough to

cover the taxi fare. I gave her $10 (the fare was $7 and

she gave the change for a tip), but then she took the receipt and stuck

it in her bag.

I didn't ask her for it and I still haven't. I would like to claim the

money for the cab on expenses, but obviously I need the receipt. Do I

risk looking like a cheapskate and ask her for the receipt, or just suck

it up?

Ms. P, New York

A: I am quite sure it was simply an accident that your boss appropriated

the receipt (watch your back next time!), but I totally understand that

you don't want to point out your boss' oversight.

I consulted a dear friend of mine, Alexander, who has vast experience in

walking the delicate line between truth and self-interest. (He once

worked for a dutchess from a tiny European country who had an

embarrassing habit of stealing centerpieces from embassy dinners.)

"E-mail your boss and tell her that you are doing your expenses and you

can't find the receipt," he said. "Ask her if she will vouch for you

when you file for the taxi fare." That way, said Alexander, she will

either remember the receipt or confirm the expenditure for your


Q: I have a really famous client (a movie actor) who is so handsome and

charming, I just lose it whenever I have to meet with him. I stammer,

get all mixed up and sound like an idiot. How can I get over my shyness

with him?

Ms. B, Los Angeles

A: How difficult it is to be famous. (I had a brief brush with fame

myself years ago. It was an incident involving pop singer Phil Collins

and the San Diego Zoo). Imagine engaging a PR advisor to help negotiate

the media terrain, only to find a star-struck dimwit trembling in your


This movie actor is merely the CEO of a one-man corporation. Delineate

the client's needs as you would any other, and remember that he needs

you to handle the job professionally.

- Got a problem that no one else can help you with? Try Pandora. E-mail

her at

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