CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I have a client with a limited knowledge of English and little

marketing experience. His lack of understanding is seriously affecting

results, which reflects poorly on my agency. For instance, I recommended

we use the word "chosen" for a press release since it's much stronger

than "become," but he used "become" anyway. He also insists on branding

a product name with a symbol that has no meaning outside of the

engineering community. What can I do when my client is his own worst


The Spicy Pisces, Los Angeles

A: Embracing the global economy seemed like so much fun, didn't it? One

imagined sipping champagne on the Riviera with clients, not haranguing

them over syntax. Cultural differences and language barriers create a

range of potential pitfalls.

However, you shouldn't let your clients nationality become the


Your problem is no different from the America tech-head who wants to

talk in unintelligible jargon. You should explain that his expertise is

in the product, while yours is in communicating it to the general


Q: Please tell me how to deal (in a non-violent way) with a VP who is

consistently 30 minutes late or more to scheduled meetings, who

regularly loses original documents, who casually disregards important

deadlines and is pretty much unresponsive to the needs of his/her

clients and team.

This behavior is driving me crazy and is making it nearly impossible for

me and my coworkers to meet our own commitments to clients. I've

discussed the situation with my supervisor and she shares my

frustration, but her hands are tied as she also reports to this person.

I enjoy my job and don't want to leave, but I'm starting to think I have

no choice. Suggestions?

Ms. B, New York

A: Resist your murderous impulses, precious. When you are as seasoned as

I, you will realize that the most offensive people are frequently

promoted beyond their abilities, simply to get them out of the way.

Moreover, you should not leave a perfectly good position because of one

rotten VP.

Instead, protect yourself and prepare for the future. He or she will not

be able to sustain the facade forever. For now, thoroughly document

every example of unprofessional behavior. That way, when the din of

grumbling clients grows too loud to ignore, the VP will not be able to

blame it on you and will have to face the music alone.

QI've worked in PR for years, but usually under the guise of other

responsibilities and titles such as "marketing coordinator,"

"publications director" or "assistant director (of the organization)."

It's tough to bring my PR accomplishments to the front for prospective


Mr. R, Denver

A: Job titles are the last sanctuary of the inept. I once knew a

bungling SVP and GM of the CHCP in NY who slept with his nameplate

clutched to his chest, to remind himself of his polysyllabic


For your problem, I consulted Barry Shulman of recruitment consultants

Shulman Associates, who offered sound advice.

"Don't make it anymore difficult than it has to be," he said. "A simple

checklist with everything you have done in PR, supported with samples or

a portfolio, will surely underscore your core competencies."

It is your job as a PR person to show your talents to their true


As Barry so wisely put it, "Treat yourself as you would treat one of

your clients."

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

at pandora@

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