CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I've just been asked to supervise preparation for a large RFP

that our agency is pitching for. It's a great opportunity to work with

one of our directors and it could get me onto an account that will see

me pitching major media. However, it's a last minute pitch and I would

need to work over an upcoming weekend - the same weekend of my

boyfriend's sister's wedding. Which should I opt for? And if I go to the

wedding, how do I explain it to my boss?

Ms. T, New York

A: Your decision hinges on a number of factors. If this is the first

time you've been offered such a lead role, I would think very carefully

before turning down the chance to shine and show yourself off to the

director. Not to mention that the experience will teach you to handle

the pressure associated with a visible project.

But perhaps there's a way you can do both, while attracting brownie

points for being so efficient. Could you work extra hard the week

preceding the wedding, or perhaps work remotely or for just part of the


We may be heading into tougher economic times, but something tells me

we're never going to return to the crazy, work-is-everything ethos of

the '80s. If you explain the situation to your manager, he or she is

almost sure to understand why it is reasonable for you to want to go to

this wedding. Add that you have a plan for making sure the job gets

done, and you'll be seen as effective and flexible.

Q: I joined a college as PR manager a few months ago and have been

working on a plan to increase its profile. The problem is that the plan

rests on our professors being available to the media. But whenever I

suggest this, most of them say they have no time to talk to the press.

How can I persuade them to join in?

Ms. P, San Diego

A: The plan will never work unless you have high-level backing, so make

sure you've got a senior administrator to publicly support the scheme.

You could also feed this senior person some examples of high-profile

colleges whose fame benefits everyone who works there, and more

important, show how these schools attain their visibility.

Once you've got the support established, then look at addressing

individual resistance. Target the egos of the individuals concerned by

pointing out their expertise and showing them how they could have

contributed to recent media debates.

Stave off any fear of the media by offering media training for anyone

who feels they need it (and for those who don't, too).

Then draw up a list of your best spokespeople for particular subjects

and start circulating it to major media. But stay flexible. You are

likely to get the best results by staying alert and taking advantage of

the twists and turns of the news agenda.

You may need to get hold of your spokespeople during the evening or

weekend if you want them to comment on a breaking news story, so make

sure you have home and cell phone numbers for them. Alert them to this

possibility well in advance to save yourself the embarrassment of lining

up a professor to speak to a journalist only to have him or her refuse

because it's out of work time.

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

at pandora@

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